A collective effort to increase sustainable ag production through diversification and improved soil health.
News & Events
By Stan Wise PIERRE, SD — Before Cooper Hibbard came home to manage his family’s ranch, he studied ag business, rangeland resources and Spanish at California Polytechnic State University and then worked on ranches all over the world. That education and experience...
By Stan Wise PIERRE, SD – It’s often said that the best time to start improving your land was 20 years ago, but the second-best time is right now. That statement might be harder for ranchers to swallow with winter on their doorstep, nothing growing in their pastures,...
By Stan Wise PIERRE, SD – Agricultural producers often base their land management decisions on the living things they can see above the ground – crops, livestock, forage, weeds, insects, wildlife, etc. However, new research is showing they should also consider life...
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.
Diversity as much as possible with 3 or more crops and cover crops whenever possible. Try to mimic nature- cool and warm season grasses and broadleaf plants. Three or more crops in rotation benefits the soil food web, improves infiltration, nutrient cycling, reduces disease and pests, and aids in weed suppression.
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.