There’s a potentially game-changing movement coming from
America’s heartland. It has broad implications regarding the vitality of our
farms, the health of our planet and our ability to feed more than 9 billion
people who will be coming to dinner by the year 2050.
This movement continues to grow thanks to a different kind
of healthcare — the health and care of our precious soil. Previously, most of us
have looked at soil in terms of its quality.
But as one farmer observed recently, “Anything can have
quality, but only living things can have health.”
So while it might seem like a trivial word choice important
only to those that work in the marketing department, the focus on soil health
versus soil quality reflects a fundamental shift in the way we think about and
are caring for our nation’s soil.
Talk to any farmer working to improve the health of the soil
and he or she will likely tell you that the “ah-ha” moment came when they
realized that soil isn’t just an inactive growing medium. In fact, the soil is
alive and teaming with trillions of microorganisms and fungi that are the
foundation of an elegant, symbiotic ecosystem.
This new reality has quietly brought about an agricultural
revolution as more and more farmers in Indiana and throughout the nation are
harvesting a wide range of benefits — on and off the farm — by improving soil
From every angle — business, production, sustainability and
environmental — managing for soil health makes sense.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources
Conservation Service recently launched a new education campaign titled “Unlock
the Secrets in the Soil” to help more farmers discover the basics and benefits
of soil health and to encourage the adoption of soil health-improving practices
such as cover cropping, no-till and diverse crop rotations.
The journey to improving soil health has its challenges.
Every farm is different and has its own set of unique resource issues.
Fortunately, our nation’s farmers are innovative, courageous
and tenacious. NRCS is committed to assist these soil health pioneers and to
help make their farms more productive, resilient and profitable along the
As we face mounting production, climate and sustainability
challenges, I believe there is no better time to make a long-term commitment to
improve the health of our living and life-giving soil. The promise of our future
depends on it.