Soil health news, programming and other resources from MSU Extension.

Soil health is defined by the USDA NRCS as the continued capacity of a soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans. These functions include maintaining plant productivity, regulating and partitioning water, filtering and buffering against pollutants, and storing and cycling nutrients.

Soil health as we know it depends on management and generally boils down to organic matter and porosity, two physical properties that are highly dependent on soil texture. When we have higher organic matter we have, greater water infiltration, lower bulk density, higher EC (Electro Conductivity), higher respiration, greater soil nitrogen, greater aggregate stability, more earthworms and more soil microbes.

To improve soil health farmers should consider implementing a practice or combination of practices that depend on soil texture, soil health status, and constraints of their farming system. The practices include minimizing disturbance, maximize time with living roots, keep the soil covered, and diversifying rotations.