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

Episode 234. State Soil Health Programs: From the Ground Up in Montana

Twenty-nine states have, or are now developing, state soil health initiatives or coalitions. How is Montana approaching soil health at the statewide level, and how can Montanans participate?
Mike Morris, Cole Mannix, Marni Thompson, and Linda Poole

Episode 233. Aplicando prácticas de conservación a un huerta

Jose Robles es un ex agricultor de almendras que comparte su experiencia aplicando prácticas de conservación a su huerta. Explica porque empezó a aplicar compost y sembrar cultivos de cobertura cuando sus vecinos no lo hacían. También habla sobre su nueva transición en su nuevo rancho con ideas de producir ganado y también aplicar prácticas de conservación.
Jose Robles y Martin Guerena
NCAT
healthy soil

Help Shape Montana’s Soil Health Future

There’s nothing like a summer of vicious heat, drought, and grasshoppers to focus minds on the vital importance of healthy soil. Soil scientist Wallace Fuller said in 1975, “A cloak of loose, soft material, held to the Earth’s hard surface by gravity, is all that lies between life and lifelessness.” Across Montana, the summer of 2021 proved again just how crucial — and how vulnerable — that thin cloak of soil can be. Soil health is foundational to the resilience of land, and thus also to food systems, human health, and ecosystem function.
By Linda Poole, Regenerative Grazing Specialist
YouTube Soil health

NCAT Releases 19 Soil Health Innovations Videos

“The Soil Health Innovations Conference occupies the cutting edge of soil health across the country – on-farm practices, soil biology, carbon markets, and public policy,” said Steve Thompson, NCAT executive director. “This set of videos adds to NCAT’s trusted knowledgebase and provides a free resource to any producer or land manager working to improve soil conditions.”
grassland rio grande river

Episode 223: Do Cover Crops Steal Water? Part 2

This episode of Voices from the Field continues the discussion…
Sunn Hemp Plants

Episode 222: Do Cover Crops Steal Water? Part 1

In this episode of Voices from the Field, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture…

Episode 219. Soil Health: the Land Core Approach to Climate Mitigation

In this episode of Voices from the Field, NCAT Agricultural and…
NCAT

Demystifying Regenerative Grazing and Soil Health with Dr. Allen Williams

In this video, Dr. Allen Williams of Understanding Ag. LLC, leads…

Novel Nutrient Management Method: Applying Poultry Litter in Subsurface Bands

Getting nutrients right in farming is a balancing act. When planning to apply fertilizers and soil amendments, farmers must consider their soil type, climate, the time of year, the crops they are raising, water availability, soil health, water quality concerns, and the nuances of the many different macro- and micronutrients that plants require. The way nutrients are applied is also an important consideration.
By Nina Prater, Sustainable Agriculture Specialist
You can assess soil health with your senses and simple tools

Soil Health and Composting with Nina Prater and Matt Casteel

In this webinar, Nina Prater, and NCAT Sustainable Agriculture…
Matt Casteel of Wurmworks

The Power of Worms: Helpful Tips for Composting Success

I love talking with people who are passionate about what they do. That energy and excitement is always so inspiring, and that was definitely the case recently when I talked with Matt Casteel, owner of Wurmworks, a composting business in Jackson, Mississippi. He works in partnership with local organizations to transform food waste into a resource for local farmers. Matt makes worm compost, thermophilic compost, compost extract, and compost tea. 
By Nina Prater, Sustainable Agriculture Specialist

Episode 210. Harnessing the Power of Worms in Composting

Not all superheroes wear capes, and that includes worms. In this…
Linda Poole

Episode 205. Inoculating Legume Cover Crops

In this episode of Voices from the Field, Sustainable Agriculture…

LC Compost Solutions – A Future Solution for Carcass and Bio-hazardous Waste Disposal in Montana

While NCAT was preparing our final report for the Blackfeet feasibility study for a processing plant on tribal land, one thing became apparent: certain by-products from meat processing, such as offal, bones, and hides are very much at the mercy of market prices. One minute, they could be a value-added product, and the next minute, they could become an additional disposal cost.
By Andrew Coggins, NCAT Rocky Mountain West Office Director