A collective effort to increase sustainable ag production through diversification and improved soil health.
2023 Soil Health School Registration Open!
The 2023 Soil Health School will be held August 28-30 on the farms of Anthony Bly and Bruce Carlson near Garretson, SD! There will be classroom sessions, field excercises, discussion panels, and opportunities to network with researchers, industry professionals, and experienced producers who can help you on your soil health journey! Class size is limited, so learn more and register today!
News & Events
Long-term research reveals advantages of diverse crop rotations
By Stan Wise PIERRE, SD – It can take time for scientists to build new knowledge of biological processes, especially when those processes play out over the course of years. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service North Central...
‘Park the chisel’: First step toward soil health can be simple
By Stan Wise PIERRE, SD – The benefits of improved soil health for agricultural producers and gardeners are numerous and valuable – reduced input costs, improved profitability, drought and flood resilience, reduced erosion, improved water quality, increased wildlife...
Saline Soil Management: More Money With Fewer Crop Acres
By Stan Wise PIERRE, SD – Salinity areas. Trouble spots. White deserts. Regardless of what they’re called, saline soils are a problem for South Dakota. White, salty areas where nothing grows are a common sight in fields across the state. “The amount of salinity that's...
The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition is a producer led, non-profit, membership organization that was created in the spring of 2015. The Coalition is governed by a nine-member board of farmers and ranchers from across the state and includes several staff members. Staff and board members strive to carry out the Coalition’s mission to “Promote Improved Soil Health” through education and research.
5 Principles of soil health
1. Soil Cover
Keep plant residues on the soil surface. Look down, what percentage of your soil is protected by residue? Erosion needs to be minimized before you can start building soil health.
2. Limited Disturbance
Minimize physical, chemical, and biological disturbance as much as possible. You will start building soil aggregates, pore spaces, soil biology, and organic matter.
3. Living Roots
Keep plants growing throughout the year to feed the soil. Cover crops can add carbon to the soil, providing a great food source for micro-organisms. Try to add a perennial to your system. Start small to find the best fit for your operation.
Try to mimic nature. Use cool and warm season grasses and broad leaf plants as much as possible, with three or more crops and cover crops in rotation. Grassland and cropland plant diversity increases soil and animal health.
5. Integrating Livestock
Fall/winter grazing of cover crops and crop residue increases livestock’s plane of nutrition at a time when pasture forage quality can be low, increases the soil biological activity on cropland, and improves nutrient cycling. Proper grassland management improves soil health.
Soil Health Benefits
Builds organic matter which retains and cycles nitrogen and sequesters carbon; which in turn reduces fertilizer and fuel costs.
Improves water infiltration and retention which helps to better manage the effects of flood or drought and improves trafficability.
Healthy soils filter and clean water that moves through it, for improved water quality.
Stabilizes soil aggregates which improves resistance to erosion by wind and water.
Enhances wildlife habitat and balances the biological community above and below ground.
DID YOU KNOW?
Healthy soil will be key to feeding 9 billion people by 2050.
Earthworm populations consume 2 tons of dry matter per acre per year, partly digesting and mixing it to form healthy soil.
Healthy soil is made of about 45% minerals 25% water 5% organic matter and 25% air.
One teaspoon of healthy soil contains 100 million–1 billion individual bacteria.