Soil Assets

Soil—the Foundation of A Healthy Watershed

Agricultural producers know that rich, balanced, and healthy soil is a necessity for growing the highest quality and most productive plants for cash crops and as food for livestock. But most of us don't really understand soil composition, how valuable it really is to our own health and well-being, and the growing concerns over how to keep our precious soil assets from literally washing away beneath our feet. 

The following content is based on the introduction to "The Management of Wisconsin Soils," (UW Extension, 5th edition, 2005). It is a powerful summary of soil's critical role in the cycle of life here on earth. 

While everyone looks at soil differently, agriculturalists—from scientists to producers—view soil in terms of its ability to support the growth of plants. In this capacity, soil ultimately supports nearly all plant and animal life on our planet. 

To the uneducated eye, soil is nothing more than an inert hodge-podge of different-sized and colored particles of dirt. Nothing could be further than the truth! "Living organisms by the billions, decaying and residual organic matter, a wide variety of minerals, and air and water interact to form a dynamic and exceedingly complex biological, physical and chemical system. A teaspoon of soil may contain as many microorganisms as there are people on earth... and the same teaspoon of soil contains more chemical atoms than there are drops of water in Lake Superior and Lake Michigan combined!" 

Wise Soil Management Practices Are Key

While the science, biology, and physical processes that occur in soil can be difficult to understand, those of us who are making decisions about land use must understand what is happening "in the ground" in order to make wise choices that will ensure the health of the soil for our shared future. It is not enough to know WHAT to do, we must also comprehend WHY we are doing it! In order to efficiently and economically grow crops and use the land, agricultural producers must know and engage in good soil management practices. 

As our land use intensifies and our population soars, agriculturalists are challenged as never before to find ways to increase production, and manage waste and nutrients without polluting and losing our precious land and water resources. 

Protecting Vital Soil Assets

Maintaining healthy waterways cannot be done without good soil management! Runoff water and soil loss from erosion account for a substantial portion of the nitrogen and phosphorus entering streams, rivers, and lakes from rural areas. Establishing and maintaining effective nutrient management programs protects groundwater supplies, supports productive cropping systems, and helps reduce leaching of nutrients. 

Life on earth is dependent on clean water and healthy soil. Adopting a true conservation ethic allows us to support agricultural sustainability and enviromental protection and become true "stewards of the soil." 

Our website's Resource page is being continually popuated with content. To learn more about soils check-out Soil Resources.