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

healthy soil
cattle grazing diverse forage copy

Soil Health Academy: More than Just a Soil Health Workshop

By Luz Ballesteros Gonzalez The National Center for Appropriate…

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

Farmers and Ranchers Are Neither the Cause Nor the Solution to Climate Disruption

The anxiety and stress farmers and ranchers face because of the consequence of climate disruption are real, but neither the causes nor significant solutions rest with farmers and ranchers. According to a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the level of net greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in 2019 was estimated to be 59 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent. A gigaton is a billion metric tons. That is a lot of extra climate-disrupting gases being released into the atmosphere of our planet every year. Unfortunately, those emissions levels are growing.
Jeff Schahczenski, NCAT Agricultural and Natural Resource Economist

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…
healthy soil

Assessing Soil Health on Grazing Lands Using a Shovel and a Knife

Did you know you can do a soil health assessment on your own pasture without having to send in soil samples to a laboratory? And this assessment costs only your time because it requires no special tools. Using the senses of sight, smell, and touch, along with very simple hand tools — a shovel and a knife — you can determine the health of the soil in your pasture in less than 30 minutes.
By Justin Morris, NCAT Regenerative Grazing Specialist
You can assess soil health with your senses and simple tools

How to Assess Soil Health on Grazing Lands Using a Shovel and a Knife

In this video, NCAT Regenerative Grazing Specialist Justin Morris…
Hands holding healthy soilUSDA NRCS

Watch: NCAT Releases Soil Health 101 Series

In a new video series: Soil Health 101: Principles for Livestock…

Episode 243. Cover Crops and Their Impact on Soil Health, Crop Productivity

In this episode of Voices from the Field, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Mike Lewis is joined by Shawn Lucas, an assistant professor of organic agriculture at Kentucky State University, in a conversation about cover crops.
Mike Lewis and Shawn Lucas
You can assess soil health with your senses and simple tools

Soil Health 101: Principles for Livestock Production

In this webinar, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Nina…

Episode 241. NCAT’s Soil for Water Project to Connect a Community of Regenerators

The National Center for Appropriate Technology has officially re-launched its Soil for Water project, opening access to the free, voluntary network to all commercial farmers, ranchers, and land managers across the United States. Soil for Water aims to connect farmers, ranchers, and land managers who are interested in land management practices that improve soil health, catch more water in soil, reduce erosion, sustain diverse plant and animal life, and filter out pollutants all while sustaining a profitable business.
NCAT Communications Director Emilie Ritter Saunders and NCAT Regenerative Grazing Specialist Linda Poole
Soil for Water Atlas

Introducing the Regenerator’s Atlas of America

Soil for Water’s Regenerator’s Atlas of America is now live! With…
Soil for Water Film

Join Us for the ‘Soil for Water’ Film Premiere

“Your soil health is going to keep you in business. If you take care of your soil, the land will give back to you.” Tina Weldon and her partner Orion are among a growing network of farmers, ranchers, and land managers are taking steps to catch and hold more water in the soil. Join the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) on Thursday, February 17 for the world premiere of its film Soil for Water, with a panel discussion to follow.
James Burch (center) at an NCAT workshopNCAT

NCAT Launches Nationwide ‘Soil for Water’ Regenerative Agriculture Project

Farmers, ranchers, and land managers across the United States who are taking steps to catch and hold more water in the soil are invited to join the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s Soil for Water project. Building on an expanding peer-to-peer network of ranchers in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Montana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas, and Virginia, NCAT has opened the program to crop farmers, ranchers, and land managers in all 50 states who are learning together how to catch and hold more water in the soil.