Today has been designated as World Soil Day. It is a promotion to draw attention to what farmers are doing to improve the health and fertility of their soil, and the Hoosier State is a leader in this movement that is changing the ground on which we stand.
Indiana farmers have always cared about their land, but this has taken on a new dimension in recent years. Not only are farmers staking steps to conserve top soil, but they are also working to improve what is underneath. State Conservationist Jane Hardisty said this movement started here in Indiana, “This soil health movement we started is spreading across the country and moving fast.”
While there are state and federal agencies involved, Hardisty said most of the work is being done by farmers themselves. “They are really understanding biologically what is happening under the surface,” she stated. “Because what is happening determines what that soil can handle in terms of crops planted and fertilizers applied.”
Hardisty believes that this focus on soil health is what is going to solve many of the challenges we face in agriculture today, “How we are going to deal with climate change, how we are going to deal with extreme weather, and the resilience of what this soil can do.” She added that improving soil health is the key to agriculture’s sustainability. She added that the story of soil health is also one consumers are interested in hearing, as they are more concerned about how their food is produced and the impact on the environment.
The planting of cover crops continues to grow in Indiana, already the nation’s leader in the adoption of this technology. Hardisty said the warm dry fall weather led to an increase in tillage this year but is confident continued research will show the benefits of reduced tillage. She told HAT Indiana NRCS continues to get a good deal requests for technical assistance from farmers.
To mark the occasion, the SHP has released an educational and fun white board video, “Farmers to the Rescue: How Healthy Soil Can Save the Planet.”
“Soil health is the next frontier in agricultural sustainability,” said Nick Goeser, SHP director. “Restoring organic matter through practices like growing cover crops will help soil sequester more carbon while making it more resistant to drought, and more resilient to floods. These are important goals worldwide as the population grows.”
“By changing some practices, farmers hold the power to rebuild organic matter in their soil,” the white board video says. “This helps the planet by improving crops and removing excess carbon from the atmosphere….More organic matter in the soil means better soils for farming, healthy crops, and protecting the environment.” The World Soil Day campaign aims to connect people with soils and raise awareness on their critical importance in our lives. In 2002, the International Union of Soil Sciences made a resolution proposing the 5th of December as World Soil Day to celebrate the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to human wellbeing.