Soil Management

The educational materials listed on this page are about Soil Management.

Soil management encompasses a number of strategies used by farmers and ranchers to protect soil resources, one of their most valuable assets. By practicing soil conservation, including appropriate soil preparation methods, they reduce soil erosion and increase soil stabilization. These soil conservation methods allow for healthy soil formation, soil fertility and favorable soil composition, including soil permeability and soil porosity, which lead to increased soil health. Soil organic matter is a critical component of soil health. Cover crops can help maintain or increase soil organic matter. By using a variety of soil management practices, soil organic matter will increase while soil erosion will decrease, keeping soil nutrients on the farm. Farmers typically use a soil analysis, or soil sampling procedure, to determine what inputs are needed. Key practices include compostingsoil chemistrynutrient mineralizationsoil quality/healthorganic mattercover cropsgreen manuressoil analysissoil microbiologysoil physics.

What is Soil Health, to begin exploring the relationship between on-farm practices, soil health and complex web of life in the soil. Building Soils for Better Crops helps farmers determine the best soil management strategies to employ on their farm. Crop Rotation on Organic Farms: A Planning Manual may be useful for farmers who want to use crop rotations to improve soil fertility and soil composition. Diversifying Cropping Systems identifies practices that enhance diversity on farms, making soils and crops less susceptible to pests, diseases and weeds. Producers can gain knowledge about the importance of soil and crop management strategies by visiting the Cover Crop Topic Room.

Highlighting Innovations in Soil Health

On March 8-9, 2021, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) held the first Soil Health Innovations conference. Originally scheduled last year as an in-person conference in Montana, the conference was postponed due to COVID and expanded as a nationwide virtual conference with 675 participants. The live stream event included speakers and panels, as well […]

Can Cover-cropping and Grazing Work with Dryland Grain Farming?

Farmers know that planting one crop year after year is asking for trouble. It depletes the soil and leads to increased insect, weed and disease pressures. But in certain places, it’s also been the major agricultural system for decades. In north-central Washington, along the Canadian border, dryland wheat production has been the dominate production system […]

A Sunn Hemp Cover Crop for Soil Health and Nematode Management

These University of Hawaii fact sheets and virtual field day explain how to use sunn hemp as a cover crop to control weeds, nematodes and other pests, add soil nutrients, prevent erosion, and contribute to a more robust and complex community of beneficial nematodes. Available fact sheets include: Using Sunn Hemp as a Cover Crop […]

Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems Project

Public concerns regarding pesticide misuse, food safety, water use and contamination, and depletion of non-renewable resources have motivated the reevaluation of some of the practices of conventional agriculture and the exploration of alternative, more sustainable approaches to growing food. In 1988, the Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems (SAFS) project was established at the University of California’s […]

Mixed Cover Crops

An informational video on the pros and cons of planting mixed cover crops which are often used to replace fallow. Focus is on effects of cover crops on soil quality in semi-arid regions.

On-Farm Internship Training Binder

The Placer Ag Futures Project was conceived as a response to critical issues affecting local agricultural sustainability. This project was intended to help grow a new crop of agricultural professionals that are trained in sustainable agricultural practices. One part of the Ag Futures Project was the on-farm internship training. The summer internship program consisted of […]

Nutrient Management Plans: Idaho

This document is an instruction guide for creating and implementing a nutrient management plan on certified or transitioning organic lands in Idaho.

Cover Crops in Organic Systems: Oregon

This document provides an overview of how the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service NRCS Cover Crop 340 conservation practice can be implemented on organic operations in Oregon.

Cover Crops in Organic Systems: Idaho

This document provides an overview of how the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service NRCS Cover Crop 340 conservation practice can be implemented on organic operations in Idaho.

Building Soils in Alaska Communities

Many Alaska communities have stated an interest in food production but perceive that a lack of adequate soils inhibits gardening. Most Alaskan producers confront related soil problems, such as thin root zones, nutrient-poor soils with low organic material contents, and some issues with permafrost. Despite the high cost of shipping, some producers actually import all of their garden soils from the continental United States on a barge, unaware that many of the necessary soil components can be found locally. This video demonstrates soil building and raised bed construction.

Tea Time in the Tropics

This book critically evaluates the phenomenon of compost tea and provides a thorough discussion of the composition and process of making compost.

Biological Soil Crusts

Cheryl McIntyre investigates the influence of biocrusts on the establishment of native perennial grasses and cheatgrass and the conditions under which biocrusts might make rangelands more resistant to exotic grass invasion, and thereby serve as a potential restoration tool for producers.

Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation to Control Soil Borne Pathogens Webinar

In the webinar the presenters briefly review the development and use of anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD) techniques for control of soil borne pathogens in various crops and regions around the world, and then focus on the current state of knowledge and use of ASD in California primarily for strawberry production. We discuss the latest research […]

Fresh Growth Podcast

Fresh Growth: Approaches to a More Sustainable Future from Western Ag Practitioners introduces you to farmers and ranchers from around the western United States who are finding innovative sustainable practices that enrich the natural resources we all care about. These successful multi-generational operations experiment with new ideas and are making it pay. Listen in as […]