On World Soil Day, Let’s Talk about Saving Farmland By the Inch

Brennan Hafner

Today is World Soil Day, an event dedicated to raising awareness around the many benefits healthy soil provides for our families, communities, and environment.

Here at American Farmland Trust, we think saving farmland by the inch of topsoil is just as important as saving it by the acre.

Farmland and ranchland contains a complex, living world beneath the surface - one tablespoon of healthy soil contains billions of beneficial microorganisms - that is the foundation for farmers' and ranchers’ success.

And the success of our future depends on their success. We need healthy soils to grow the food that sustains us all.

For almost 40 years through demonstration projects, research, and public policy, we’ve helped farmers adopt conservation practices on their farms to enhance soil health. Everything from cover crops to increased crop rotations to the use of no-till technology.

No-till farming involves growing crops without disturbing the soil or exposing it to the elements. The practice significantly reduces erosion, an important task as 1.7 billion tons of topsoil are lost to erosion each year in America and erosion leads to the loss of fertile farmland and increased pollution of rivers and streams.

Despite the many benefits of reduced tillage, a recent USDA report found some farmers are turning away from the practice.

This report highlights there are still barriers to more widespread implementation of conservation practices on farmland. Some of these barriers include herbicide-resistant weeds, frequent and intense springs storms not allowing farmers to get soil dried out without tillage, and increased farm sizes making the practice difficult.

Though the trend towards no-till farming has declined in certain crops, it continues to rise in crops such as corn and soybean production. Many farmers are seeing the benefits of no-till, and the USDA considers it a “key component of a soil health management system.”

AFT is testing new tools that quantify the potential of soil health improvements, conducting research to better understand how to increase conservation on farmland, and expanding training to improve soil health. With this work and your support, we can turn the trend of soil health practices positive for all crop production.

Without high-quality soils, we can't feed ourselves.

AFT will continue to work to protect the soil and keep it healthy – as part of our holistic approach to keeping the nation's farmland and ranchland productive for all.

To learn more about how we support the efforts of World Soil Day every day through our programs and initiatives, visit www.farmland.org/Soil.