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Friday, May 6, 2016

Celebrating Earth Day with healthy soils

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 22 marks the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day, and people around the world will celebrate with activities, which boost our awareness and appreciation of the environment.

The event calls us into action to address all kinds of local environmental issues and challenges.

Farming is often among the list of challenges. However, I believe farming is the original green job, and it's getting greener all the time.

In fact, many of Indiana's farmers are on a health kick -- that is, a soil health kick.

Soil health is achieved by disturbing the soil as little as possible, keeping it covered, growing as many different species of plants as practical, and keeping living plants in the soil as much as possible.

Soil health practices are green because they use less energy, fuel, pesticides and nutrients; reducing pollution, improving our air and water quality, reducing flooding and enhancing wildlife habitat.

Healthy soil matters to all of us with the increased demand for food production to feed our growing population, a decrease in available land, and the U.S. and the world becoming more dependent on finite resources to just keep up with demand.

In the agency I work for, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, we are excited to work hand-in-hand with Indiana farmers to find the best combination of conservation practices to manage their land for optimal soil health.

And the excitement is building as farmers are seeing incredible success when groups of practices such as no-till, cover crops, advance nutrient and pest management, and buffer and drainage systems (where appropriate) are implemented together as a "system."

This is not a new way to farm -- just a new way to think about farming. Farmers can see healthy soil not only results in environmental gains, it makes sense and makes money.

Managing farms fields for soil health means greater yield protection, lower energy and fuel needs because of less soil disturbance, less physical labor, reduced compaction and more.

You'll be hearing more about soil health in the future as NRCS focuses on helping farmers and other private landowners learn how they can make a difference by learning more about what their soil needs to be healthy.

Having grown up on a central Indiana grain farm, I know firsthand that Indiana farmers have a genuine love for the land they work and are by far the best stewards of our natural resources.

They work hard to protect our environmental in a sustainable way while providing Hoosiers a stable, secure, and healthy domestic food source -- not just on Earth Day, but every day of the year.

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