Managing Soil Health: Concepts and Practices

Managing Soil Health: Concepts and Practices

Information for farmers and gardeners who want to understand the physical, chemical, and biological components of healthy soil and how to manage them.

Introduction

Healthy soil is the foundation for profitable, productive, and environmentally sound agricultural systems. By understanding how the soil processes that support plant growth and regulate environmental quality are affected by management practices, it is possible to design a crop and soil management system that improves and maintains soil health over time. This information is for farmers and gardeners who want to understand the physical, chemical, and biological components of healthy soil and how to manage them.

Soil is a critical resource—the way in which it is managed can improve or degrade the quality of that resource. Soil is a complex ecosystem where living microorganisms and plant roots bind mineral particles and organic matter together into a dynamic structure that regulates water, air, and nutrients. In an agricultural context, soil health most often refers to the ability of the soil to sustain agricultural productivity and protect environmental resources. A healthy soil provides many functions that support plant growth, including nutrient cycling, biological control of plant pests, and regulation of water and air supply. These functions are influenced by the interrelated physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil, many of which are sensitive to soil management practices.