Soil Health

Soil Management

Maintaining Soil Fertility in an Organic Fruit and Vegetables Crop System
The focus of this discussion is to conserve natural resources by relying on biological processes within the soil system to recycle and release nutrients rather than providing high amounts of manufactured fertilizers.

Where to Start: Building Soil for Organic and Sustainable Farms
This bulletin provides practical approaches to improve soil using organic and ecologically based management.

Advanced Soil Organic Matter Management
This bulletin describes practices to help build soil organic matter and the science behind each practice.

Building Soils Organically
This presentation uses case study statistics to observe principles of organic fertility management and crop growth.

How Much Carbon Can be Sequestered by Organic-based Cropping Systems?
This presentation uses a case study to show how soil organic systems have a potential to increase carbon sequestration.

Lowering Soil pH for Horticulture Crops
This publication explains how soil pH affects the availability of nutrients in soil rooting zones and recommends practices to safely lower soil pH.

Best Practices for Natural Resources on Organic Farms
This presentation outlines environmental concerns for organic farms, briefly discussing nutrient, pest and soil management.

Benefits of Proper Manure Management
Manure is a valuable farm resource contributing nutrients for improved crop production and soil health.

No-Till Case Study: Cover Crop Cocktails on Former CRP Land
The Bauer family in Bismarck, North Dakota, converted CRP land back to crop production. They planted a low-carbon cover crop cocktail with no cool-season grasses. This publication relates the results of their experience.

No-Till Case Study: Improving Soil Health Improves the Bottom Line
The Brown’s Ranch, a North Dakota farm and ranch, became increasingly profitable as a result of the attention given to soil health through the use of no-till farming, diverse cover crops and intensive rotational cattle grazing.This publication relates the results of their experience.

Soil Testing and Assessment

The Relevance of Soil Biology in Assessing Fertility and Soil Health
This USDA NRCS webinar teaches how soil biology influences crop growth and nutrient cycling, and discusses methods for measuring biological activity in soil and interpreting soil respiration to understand nutrient availability.

A Brief Overview of Nutrient Cycling in Pastures
Nutrients in a pasture system cycle through soil organisms, pasture plants and grazing livestock. This document directs management that can enhance the nutrient cycle, increase productivity and reduce costs.

Purdue Forage Field Guide
This pocket field guide covers pasture establishment and renovation; insect, weed, and disease identification and management; soil fertility; as well as animal nutrition requirements. The third edition is available Spring 2015. For a sample of the second edition, download the above-listed PDF document or read more online.

Testing Soil for Needed Nutrients
Michigan State Soil and Plant Nutrient Laboratory (SPNL) offers a variety of analytical services on samples of soil, greenhouse growth media, composts, plant tissue, water and other materials related to the growing crops received from commercial and part-time farmers.

Soil Ecology and Management
This website addresses key principles of soil ecological management, including: biodiversity, vegetative cover and soil quality. Practical management tools in line with these principles include the use of cover crops, compost, manure and reduced tillage.

Soil Organic Matter
Soil organic matter makes up only a few percent of most soils, but it has a great deal of influence on soil properties and agricultural productivity.

Soil Testing at Penn State University
Soil fertility is the foundation for plant health; a simple test kit from Penn State offers data on soil-nutrient levels and recommendations on lime or fertilizer application.

Soil Test Interpretation Guide
Regular soil testing is an important element in nutrient management; soil tests can be used as a diagnostic tool or to identify trends through time.

Cornell Soil Health Assessment Training Manual
This extension publication provides an overview of soil health, constraints and quality issues common to soils, especially within vegetable and field crop production systems.

Soil Moisture and Irrigation

Soil Moisture Management
This resource outlines moisture management by describing soil water movement, factors influencing the amount of moisture in soil and practices to decrease or increase moisture content.

Soil Moisture Monitoring: Low Cost Tools and Methods
This publication explains how soils hold water and surveys some low-cost soil moisture monitoring tools and methods, including a new generation of user-friendly electronic devices.

Methods for Measuring Soil Moisture
In-field sampling is required to determine if fields have enough soil moisture for wheat planting.

Drip Irrigation For Greenhouse Vegetable Production
Automatic Drip Irrigation is a valuable tool for accurate soil moisture control in greenhouse vegetable production.

Organic Nutrient Sources

Crop Services International (CSI), Portage, MI – 616-246-7933
CSI is a Michigan-based company that aims to help transitional, sustainable and organic growers achieve their goals. CSI combines technology, testing and natural inputs such as mined phosphates, sulfate of potash, gypsum as well as fish, seaweed, and a wide variety of biological and other products to increase soil, plant and animal life. If they do not carry a product you need, call for ordering or brokerage options.

Honeyville Farm and Feed Supply, Topeka, IN – 260-593-9943
Established in 2001, Honeyville meets the farm and feed demands of transitional and organic growers in Indiana and southwest Michigan, providing a full line of organic, non-GMO (and conventional) feed and fertilizer options.


Getting Help to Improve Soil and Water Quality-Cost Shares from USDA 
USDA recognizes the needs of farmers of all kinds, and has worked hard to improve federal resources so they work for all farmers.

Insider's Guide to EQIP 
Lessons learned from Michigan farmers on navigating the NRCS EQIP program