Harvest in the midst of drought: Healthy soil delivers

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CARROLL, Ohio – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White visited a family-owned farm in Ohio to announce the start of a U.S. Department of Agriculture effort meant to highlight the benefits of improving and maintaining America’s soil.

“This initiative will help our farmers meet current and future demands for American-grown agriculture by encouraging good soil and natural resources practices that are beneficial to their operations,” said White. “We understand that soils and farms vary across the country, so our job is to provide farmers the very best information available to meet their unique needs and help their business thrive.”

White visited the farm of David Brandt, who experienced a successful harvest despite extreme weather and challenging growing conditions. Good soil conditions and management practices contributed to the surprising yield, though little precipitation fell across central Ohio over the summer.

NRCS' awareness and education effort features farmers from communities in numerous states—Ohio, Indiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Indiana, Utah, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Montana and Kansas—where growers are increasingly interested in how improved soil health can benefit their operations. The agency is studying successes and identifying lessons learned in these states to share with farmers in other states.

For example, Brandt promotes soil health by eliminating plowing and by mixing cover crops. This has significantly reduced the effort he puts into his crops. His soil has been found to be rich in spongy organic matter that feeds crops and holds more than its own weight in water. This additional moisture retention is believed to be the basis for Brandt’s success in the face of the current drought.

Awareness and education components of NRCS’s soil health initiative will include fact sheets, brochures, videos, web, radio and social media announcements, as well as local field days.  To “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil,” go to NRCS’s soil quality page or contact your local NRCS office.

The “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” effort builds on President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative, which fosters a 21st century approach to conservation that responds to the priorities of the American people. During the past three years, USDA's conservation agencies, the U.S. Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Farm Service Agency, have worked with more than half a million farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to enroll record acres in conservation programs, have targeted conservation dollars to locally-driven conservation initiatives and have worked to increase conservation and restoration activities on the 193 million acre National Forest system.

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