Investing in soil health

Level of Expertise: Introductory/Overview,

Topics: Soil Health and Building Soil Carbon, Biodiversity, No-Till and Reduced Disturbance,

Healthier soils help the productivity of crop fields and pastures in several ways. They have higher levels of microbial activity, leading to more effective nutrient cycling that can help plants grow well. Healthier soils generally have more organic matter than degraded soils, leading to better soil aggregate structure (also affected by soil fungi) and better water-holding capacity. Higher numbers of earthworms also contribute to nutrient cycling and help internal drainage in the soil. While we are still learning about all the ways that soil microbes impact food plants, of particular importance are mycorrhizal fungi that help plant roots access more nutrients and water, which is of particular value during dry periods or other periods of stress for plants. Healthier soils generally lead to healthier plants and contribute to farm profitability over time.

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