NRCS increasing focus on soil health

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is placing renewed focus on caring for the vital soils of the United States with a new Soil Health Division“We’re getting back to our roots and our basics. NRCS was born 80 years ago, created in the wake of the Dust Bowl. Our focus then was sharing our knowledge of farming and soil conservation practices with farmers to help improve the health of their soils. We have recently come full circle and are back to the principles of soil health and looking beyond the physical and chemical properties to the biological properties,” said Jason Weller, NRCS chief. “We are looking at all of the biota that live below the surface that help support the food production for those of us who live above the surface of the soil.”Rather than addressing the health of the nation’s soils from Washington, D.C., the NRCS is targeting resources for soil health in the field.“It is about first educating our own employees by giving them the skills and training they need to work with farmers and ranchers to help with their overall cropping and grazing systems. Also importantly we are providing training to our Soil and Water Conservation District partners, and, most crucially, our customers — farmers and ranchers,” Weller said. “We are starting to hire and recruit some of the nation’s best soil scientists, agronomists and resource conservationists to get out in the field. Importantly, this division is not based in Washington, D.C. — 99% of the employees are out in the field where they belong. There we can provide one-on-one service for farmers and training opportunities for our own staff.”Weller feels this emphasis on soil health at the NRCS will further enhance the USDA’s overall commitment to caring for natural resources.“The most valuable asset a farmer has is the soil. We can look at how to use different types of tillage, other farm inputs, manure management and other inputs, chemistry, nutrient management, and drainage management in a holistic look at how you manage the soils,” he said. “We have learned through science that by improving the overall health of your soils, it will help maintain or boost yields. We can’t do this without interest and engagement from the ag community. The innovation and leadership starts with farmers.”last_img

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