Porter County Soil & Water Conservation District

soil Health

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Soil health, also referred to as soil quality, is defined as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. This definition speaks to the importance of managing soils so they are sustainable for future generations. To do this, we need to remember that soil contains living organisms that when provided the basic necessities of life - food, shelter, and water - perform functions required to produce food and fiber.

Only "living" things can have health, so viewing soil as a living ecosystem reflects a fundamental shift in the way we care for our nation's soils. Soil isn’t an inert growing medium, but rather is teaming with billions of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes that are the foundation of an elegant symbiotic ecosystem. Soil is an ecosystem that can be managed to provide nutrients for plant growth, absorb and hold rainwater for use during dryer periods, filter and buffer potential pollutants from leaving our fields, serve as a firm foundation for agricultural activities, and provide habitat for soil microbes to flourish and diversify to keep the ecosystem running smoothly.

-USDA NRCS

PRINCIPLES OF SOIL HEALTH

ICP - soil health philosophy 2019.pdf

MINIMIZE DISTURBANCE

MAXIMIZE BIODIVERSITY

MAXIMIZE SOIL COVER

CONTINUOUS LIVING ROOTS

Healthy Soil performs the following essential functions

  • Regulating water - Soil helps control where rain, snowmelt, and irrigation water goes. Water and dissolved solutes flow over the land or into and through the soil.

  • Sustaining life - The diversity and productivity of living things depends on soil.

  • Filtering and buffering pollutants - The minerals and microbes in soil are responsible for filtering, buffering, degrading, immobilizing, and detoxifying organic and inorganic materials

  • Cycling nutrients - Carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and many other nutrients are stored, transformed, and cycled in the soil.

  • Physical stability and support - Soil structure provides a medium for plant roots.

District cover crop cost-share program

Looking to improve soil health on your farm?

The Porter County Soil & Water Conservation District is pleased to sponsor a Cover Crop Cost-Share Program. Cost share will be based on 50% of the amount of the cost (seed & interseeding application) with a maximum payment of $1,000 per participant. Participants will be chosen on a first come first served basis, and all practices must comply with NRCS recommendations. The cover crop must be kept intact without tillage or disturbance until March 1.

SOIL TEMPERATURE STUDY

Porter County Soil Temperature Study All Years.pdf

additional information

The Science of Soil Health: What Happens When You Till?

2019-2020 National Cover Crop Survey Press Conference