According to an article published on Huffington Post, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has identified soil erosion, soil organic carbon buildup and soil nutrient imbalance as the top three threats to global soil health. Globally, about 40 percent of all land is farmed using practices that cause the loss of 24 billion tons of top soil each year. About 2 billion is lost each year in the United States. Replacing that top soil is a time-consuming process as it takes about 2,000 years for the earth to make four inches of top soil.
Master farmer Tim Johnson says that it need not be that way. He was recently recognized as the 2015 Champion of Change by the United States Department of Agriculture. He says that it all starts with stopping soil erosion. Tim is affiliated with Soil Health Partnership which is funded by the National Corn Growers Association.
Tim says that one area that is showing lots of promise is the planting of cover crops alongside regular crops. Popular cover crops include rye, sorghum, buckwheat and clover. These crops capture excess nitrogen left in the soil and help to put nutrients back into the soil. The United States government encourages this practice by paying farmers carbon credit money when they implement wise management techniques.
Farmers are also using no-till farming practices. They are not plowing their fields in the spring or fall. This allows them to use less fertilizer and about one-half the fuel of normal farming techniques. Healthier soil is created because worms and organisms have a place to live. In exchange, the ground is better able to absorb water and is less likely to blow away. Leaving residue on fields also forms microbial communities that help provide oxygen and nitrogen to plants.
Farmers understand that the soil provides their living. Therefore, they are also using crop rotation to help maintain soil health. They often test the soil to determine what nutrients are lacking in their soil. Then, they plant crops that will return those nutrients to the soil.