Soil is such an important and integral part of our daily lives that most folks don’t even think about it. Often referred to as “dirt,” which is just displaced soil. Soil is critical for all forms of life. Soil is the basis of all ecosystems from the plant roots for crops that gives us food, fiber, and fuel as well as feeding assorted livestock that provide food and other daily byproducts that we use such as soap, medicine and leather to name a few.

Soil is also the basis of which the Soil Conservation Service, now known as the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), was founded 80 years ago. NRCS provides leadership along with partners to help America’s private land owners and managers conserve and protect their soil, water and other natural resources. NRCS employees across the U.S. daily provide sound science-based technical assistance and conservation planning, tailored to the land’s ability and the landowner’s goals and objectives. Participation is voluntarily and there is no fee for the assistance provided. NRCS programs also offer financial assistance to those wanting to install conservation practices recommended in their plan for improving soil health, water quality and quantity, and much more.

As population continues to boom, cities and towns continue to expand and industries grow to support the ever growing needs of our society, sustainability and soil health have become the focal points in helping meet the demands of our growing world, address climate change, while protecting the Earth and ourselves.

Franklin Roosevelt’s said it best in his 1937 letter to all State Governors on a Uniform Soil Conservation Law, “The Nation that destroys its soil destroys itself,” is as true today as it was back then.  

With world population is projected to increase from 7 billion in 2013 to more than 9 billion in 2050, it is estimated food production will have to rise by 70 percent to sustain this level of growth. Combine that with 14 million acres of U.S. prime farmland lost from 1982 to 2007 to development, improving soil health is going to be the key to long-term, sustainable agricultural production.*  

NRCS can help farmers, ranchers and landowners develop a soil health management plan, a roadmap to soil health, which provides environmental, economic, health, and societal benefits.

“Through implementing the conservation systems and practices to improve crops and soil functions, producers will see the benefits over time such as reducing erosion, improving soil filtration, increasing soil organic matter and water holding capacity, which helps protect against drought and other natural disasters,” said NRCS state conservationist, Salvador Salinas. “Healthy soils also reduce production costs, increase yields, decrease time spent working in the field or pasture, and can increase profits.”

 More than 1 billion people in 192 countries participate annually in Earth Day activities and events to celebrate protecting our environment, making it the largest civic observance in the world. NRCS is proud to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 since we spend every day protecting our environment and natural resources.

By Melissa Blair, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Zone 3 Public Affairs Specialist