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man kneeling in rye covercrop

Soil Health

What is Soil Health?

There has been an increasing awareness in the connection between agriculture management practices and the overall health of the soil. Soil health is the capacity of the soil to function as a vital, living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. Practices such as repeated tillage or the over application of synthetic fertilizers, for example, can reduce the soil’s ability to function over time. Likewise, practices can be adopted to increase the soil’s ability to function. These practices can be
broadly grouped into 5 basic principles:

1. Keep the soil covered
2. Minimize soil disturbance
3. Increase crop diversity
4. Keep living roots in the soil
5. Integrate livestock

degraded soil in field

Degraded soil

Soil with low biological activity and poor aggregate structure.  This can result in inefficient nutrient cycling and low infiltration rates making the soil susceptible to erosion.

improved soil in field

Improving soil

Soil with higher levels of biological activity and aggregate structure.  The increased levels of organic matter in this soil increase water infiltration rates making it more resilient to rain events and maintaining moisture during periods of drought.

cover crop inter-seeded into corn
Cover crop inter-seeded in standing corn rows

To promote the adoption of soil health practices throughout Wright County, the Wright SWCD has adopted a Soil Health Incentive Program to provide direct payments for management practices such as cover crops and reduced tillage. The Wright SWCD’s programs and policies are evolving rapidly to keep up with this emerging field, so make sure to contact us for the most up to date information!

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