Building Soil for Organic and Sustainable Farms: Where to Start?


January 3, 2011 - <>, Sieglinde Snapp

The health of soil is critical for any farming production practices, whether organic or sustainable. To aid in the understanding of proper soil management, a Michigan State University Extension bulletin was developed, both to explain what soil health is and to provide guidelines to build soil health and monitor its progress.

High quality soil is the backbone of a sustainable crop. Well-managed soil supports healthy, vigorous root growth, which improves plant resistance to soil diseases. Building soil requires a long-term management plan to improve soil organic matter, feed beneficial soil microbes and ensure nutrient supply to plants. This long-term plan requires growers to monitor their management practices over time and to evaluate how these practices affect soil quality.

Good soil management provides…

Short-term gains

  • Adequate nutrients are available to meet crop requirements.
  • Improved soil “active” organic matter supports the soil food web.
  • Healthy root development can occur.
  • Plant susceptibility to diseases and insect pests is reduced.

Long-term gains

  • Soil organic matter is increased, supporting a resilient, healthy soil.
  • Soil porosity is improved, enhancing water infiltration.
  • Soil water-holding capacity is increased; this is particularly important in sandy soils.
  • Improved resistance to erosion conserves organic matter in topsoil.
  • Improved soil carbon sequestration contributes to the fight against climate change.

Download this bulletin to learn more!



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