The Washington Times-Herald

Columns

November 5, 2013

A different kind of 'Healthcare' taking root on Indiana farm

There’s a potentially game-changing movement coming from America’s heartland. It has broad implications regarding the vitality of our farms, the health of our planet and our ability to feed more than 9 billion people who will be coming to dinner by the year 2050.

This movement continues to grow thanks to a different kind of “healthcare”—the health and care of our precious soil. Previously, most of us have looked at soil in terms of its “quality.” But as one farmer observed recently, “Anything can have quality, but only living things can have health.”

So while it might seem like a trivial word-choice important only to those that work in the marketing department, the focus on “soil health” verses “soil quality” reflects a fundamental shift in the way we think about and are caring for our nation’s soil.

Talk to any farmer working to improve the health of the soil and he or she will likely tell you that the “ah-ha” moment came when they realized that soil isn’t just an inactive growing medium. In fact, the soil is alive and teaming with trillions of microorganisms and fungi that are the foundation of an elegant, symbiotic ecosystem.

This new reality has quietly brought about an agricultural revolution as more and more farmers in Indiana and throughout the nation are harvesting a wide range of benefits—on and off the farm — by improving soil health. From every angle — business, production, sustainability, and environmental—managing for soil health makes sense!

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently launched a new education campaign titled “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” to help more farmers discover the basics and benefits of soil health — and to encourage the adoption of soil health-improving practices like cover cropping, no-till and diverse crop rotations.

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