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Soil Health

Soil is a living and life-giving substance, without which we would perish.

As world population and food production demands rise, keeping our soil healthy and productive is of paramount importance. So much so that we believe improving the health of our Nation’s soil is one of the most important conservation endeavors of our time.

The resources on this soil health section of our site are designed to help visitors understand the basics and benefits of soil health—and to learn about Soil Health Management Systems from farmers who are using those systems.

Oregon Soil Health Partners

Oregon Soil Health PartnersOregon Soil Health Partners is an open group for the discovery, understanding and pursuit of soil health. To learn about upcoming events, listen to webinars and download soil health fact sheets, view our webpage.


Investing in Oregon Soils

Investing in Oregon SoilsSoil touches all our lives. Nutritious food, fresh air, and clean water all start with healthy soil.

NRCS is committed to high functioning soils in Oregon because we're committed to a high functioning Oregon. Our crops, grazing land, forests, and economy depend on it.

Investing in Oregon Soils explores all the ways NRCS has invested in soil health in Oregon since 1997.

Soil Your Undies Challenge

Illustration of underwear on a clothes hanger hooked to the handle of a shovel. A banner reads Soil Your Undies Challenge.

Learn the quick and dirty way to test your soil health and see how your soil compares with other Oregon producers! For once, soiled undies are a good thing!

How healthy is your soil? Take the challenge to find out!

Mighty Mini Microbe

Mighty Mini Microbe

She’s a wee bit smaller than your typical superhero.

But the creators of a new soil health-themed educational effort believe “Mighty Mini Microbe’s Tale” will encourage the next generation of real-life hero farmers, conservationists and scientists to further unlock the secrets in the soil.

Grounded in Principle, Oregon ranchers maximize soil health on grazing lands

Cows Grazing at Southworth Bros RanchWith innovation comes risk. Trying something new can be uncertain and scary, especially when your livelihood depends on it. But for several Oregon ranchers, their appetite for innovation is creating positive change to revive the land, bolster production, and maximize profits. Read more...

Watch the Video: Cover Crops on Dryland Wheat

Noah WilliamsTHE DALLES, Ore. -- Despite the common assumption that you can't make cover crops work on dryland wheat in Eastern Oregon, Wasco County wheat grower Noah Williams is determined to find a solution. By working with his local Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Wasco Soil and Water Conservation District, Williams is using cover crops to reduce erosion, retain soil moisture, and build more organic matter in the soil--and even better, he's tracking the data using soil sensors.

OSU Extension Launches New Slug Portal

OSU Extension Slug Portal LogoThe new OSU Slug Portal helps farmers, agronomists, crop consultants, and researchers better understand and manage slugs; extend knowledge on slug biology and behavior; provide information that will forecast slug activity; and provide decision-making tools to assist in effective management strategies.

Cover Crops on Dryland Wheat? 

Soil Health Profile - Noah WilliamsNoah Williams loves it when people tell him he can’t do something.

Like when people say there’s no way he can make cover crops work in a dryland wheat cropping system.

“It’s my motivation to find a way to do it,” he says. “I like the challenge.”

Noah is working with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Wasco Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to try some new, innovative approaches to build healthier soil on his farm. Read more...


Soil Health Producer Profile: Kenneth Jensen


In the Treasure Valley -- one of the nation’s top agricultural hubs nestled in Southeast Oregon and Southwest Idaho -- an innovative farmer named Kenneth Jensen is making waves for soil health. More (HTML...)

Profiles in Soil Health: Soil Health is a Group Affair


Mark Butterfield, Joe Dawson, Alan Klages and Kevin Melville

How can soil health maximize your farm’s potential? A group of four farmers in Northeast Oregon’s Wallowa County are putting their heads together to find the answer to that very important question. More (HTML...)

Cover Crop Field Day 2015 -- Corvallis, Oregon


The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), in partnership with the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District, hosted about 30 farmers, gardeners, and soil health enthusiasts during its Cover Crop Field Day, located at the NRCS Plant Materials Center in Corvallis, April 21, 2015. Participants got a first-hand look at more than 40 cover crop species and varieties, while discussing the benefits of using cover crops to enhance soil health. NRCS staff demonstrated cover crop termination equipment, including a new roller-crimper. Watch the YouTube video (3:40)

Growing With Soil Health...An Oregon Partnership

Growing With Soil Health...An Oregon Partnership

A growing number of Oregon farmers and conservationists are unlocking the secrets in the soil—and harvesting a wide range of on- and off-farm benefits. In this short video you’ll learn how and why this soil health partnership is growing across a wide range of Oregon’s diverse cropping systems and precipitation zones. Watch the YouTube video (4:24)

Profiles in Soil Health: Building Healthy Rangeland Soils


Eastern Oregon rancher Dick Fleming wants to make the most of every precious drop of rain on his rangeland. His 3,305-acre ranch in Baker County gets only seven inches of rain a year on average, and has a limited growing season of six weeks. It’s most definitely a challenge for Fleming -- and other Eastern Oregon ranchers -- to maintain moisture for forage production.  More (HTML...)

Profiles in Soil Health: Oregon Organic Farmer Unlocks Soil Health Secrets


"Investing in soil health is fundamental to good organic growing. They are essentially one in the same," he says. 

The co-owner and operator of Square Peg Farms in Forest Grove, Roehm says he and his wife Amy Benson plan for the long-term, and he thinks soil health is the best way to maximize their returns over time.  More (HTML...)

Watch the three-minute video on YouTube

Profiles in Soil Health: Soil Health = Profitability



For Oregon cherry orchardist Mike Omeg, the sweetest thing about his operation isn’t just the cherries -- it’s increased profits through investing in the health of his soil.

“Soil health means continued profitability in an ever more competitive global marketplace for my product,” said Omeg, a fifth generation owner of the 350-acre Omeg Family Orchard in The Dalles, Oregon. “It makes sense to farmers. A better soil makes us more money.”  More (HTML...)

Profiles in Soil Health: Organic grain grower sows seeds of hope in soil health



To say Eric Nelson enjoys a challenge is an understatement.

He’s a certified organic farmer, growing small grains in a 12-inch precipitation zone—most of which comes between December and February. And if that isn’t enough of a challenge, he’s also working to reduce his use of tillage while he’s integrating diverse rotations and incorporating cover crops. More (HTML...)

Watch the three-minute video on YouTube

Profiles in Soil Health: Focus on soil health drives innovation, moisture preservation for Oregon farmer



Without irrigation, it’s hard to imagine growing a cash crop in an environment that receives less than 12 inches of precipitation annually. Welcome to the world of grain farmers in central and eastern Oregon.

David Brewer is one of those farmers. But rather than looking to the sky for help, he’s looking to the soil -- improving its health in an effort to retain and preserve every drop of precipitation that happens to fall on his farm. More (HTML...)

Watch the three-minute video on YouTube

Profiles in Soil Health: Pioneering Partnerships in Oregon’s Upper Willamette Valley



Soil health means different things to different people -- but for Teresa Matteson, the key word is partnerships.

A soil conservationist for the Benton County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), Matteson has led the charge for outreach, education and partnerships to promote soil health initiatives in Oregon’s upper Willamette basin. More (HTML...)

Profiles in Soil Health: Willamette Valley Farmer Implements Conservation Practices Promoting Soil Health



Most  of the crops Peter Kenagy grows on his 325-acre family farm in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley are typical of the area, yet his production methods are anything but conventional.  Recognizing that productivity requires sustainability, Kenagy has joined a growing number of farmers in implementing conservation practices that promote soil health.  Cover crops are a notable example. More (HTML...)