Soil

Healthy soil is the foundation for long-term success for all farms and ranches. Whether organic or conventional, raising livestock or crops, your operation will benefit when you continually improve your soil’s health. ATTRA’s soil resources can help you prevent soil erosion, increase soil organic matter and water holding capacity, manage soil fertility, and improve the profitability of your farm.

Unhealthy soil doesn’t absorb much water. Healthy soil acts like a sponge, capable of holding hundreds of thousands of gallons of water in an acre. Regenerative farming practices enable the soil to capture rainfall that otherwise might disappear as runoff. Economically, these practices can increase crop and forage production, drought resilience, access to lucrative new markets, and therefore profitability. Environmentally, they can improve soil health and biodiversity.

Soil for Water

Soil for Water supports an expanding network of farmers and ranchers who are taking steps to catch and hold more water in the soil. The Soil for Water project grew out of the western megadrought, which is putting a strain on agricultural producers across the country.

The free and voluntary program combines the use of appropriate technology, peer-to-peer learning, and adaptive management to encourage the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices. The Soil for Water project is about building lasting infrastructure and connecting dynamic agricultural producers that will make farms, ranches, and communities more resilient in the face of persistent drought and other natural disasters.

Ellie Fleshman of Fleshman Farms in Teton County Montana USDA NRCS Flickr CC

Featured Topics

ATTRA’s Soil Resources

woman turning compost

Soil Social: Quorum Sensing, Part 1

Sunrise is approaching. You grab your morning cup of coffee and head out to your vegetable plot. As you hold your warm mug laced between your fingers, you muse and strategize about the day’s tasks. It is that time, just at first light, that the wind is dead calm, the nightly bug chatter has ended, it is still too early for the birds to start their musical chirping, and the rooster has yet to sound the alarm. You have come to love these special few minutes of each day for their intense vacuum silence. In between sips, you hear a buzz that you haven’t heard before. It is coming from the soil beneath the tomato and squash plants. The microbiology in your soil is having a meeting.  
Darron Gaus
Mycorrhizae
Worm castings are hand-sorted and fresh vermicompost is screened
hands holding soil in crop field

Episode 260. Rising Fertilizer Costs. Look to History for Answers 

In this episode of Voices from the Field, NCAT Specialists Nina…
hands holding biochar from various feedstocks
healthy soil
cattle grazing diverse forage copy

Episode 254. Meet NCAT. Luz Ballesteros Gonzalez Connects Food, Agriculture, Community, and Health

In this episode of Voices from the Field, we meet up with one of NCAT’s newest sustainable agriculture specialists, Luz Ballesteros Gonzalez. In her conversation with colleague Robert Maggiani in the NCAT Southwest Regional Office in San Antonio, Texas, Luz explains how she decided on a career in sustainable agriculture. After initially setting out to study medicine, her interests in chemistry and environmental sciences led her to see the connections between health and food, agriculture, and community.
Luz Ballesteros Gonzalez and Robert Maggiani

Episode 250. Practical Steps for Reducing Synthetic Fertilizer Use

For more than 35 years, the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program has been helping farmers and ranchers grow nutritious food and operate successful businesses without synthetic fertilizer. Now, NCAT has released a new toolkit with trusted and practical resources for farmers who want to transition away from the use of synthetic fertilizers.
Emilie Ritter Saunders, Nina Prater and Lee Rinehart
A farmer walks through his field

New Toolkit: How to Reduce Synthetic Fertilizer Use

For more than 35 years, the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s…