Soil health stands at the center of the Izaak Walton League's agriculture work, because healthy soils provide so many kinds of conservation benefits.
Healthy soils absorb water like a sponge, reducing the polluted runoff from the land that is the largest threat to our rivers, lakes, wetlands, and estuaries. Healthy soils need less chemical pesticides and fertilizers, reducing the potential for these pollutants to harm wildlife or run off into nearby streams. By holding more of a heavy rain, healthy soils can reduce flooding downstream. In dry areas, healthy soil can capture and hold more water that plants can use later.
Healthy soils store large amounts of organic matter, mostly in the form of carbon. Practices that build healthier soil require less fossil fuels than conventional methods, and healthy soil can capture and store a lot of carbon from the atmosphere, so soil health practices are an important strategy for slowing climate change. Healthy soils grow healthier food, which makes for healthier people. Soil health practices like planting winter cover crops can also provide cover and food for pollinators, deer, and other wildlife.
On family farms and ranches, healthy soil can boost production, reduce costs for inputs like agrichemicals, improve the quality of food grown, make farms more resilient to very wet or very dry years, and improve profits. It is no wonder farmers, ranchers, researchers, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are all working furiously to understand, adopt, and adapt soil health practices.
Through our Agriculture Program, the Izaak Walton League of America is advocating for polices that promote soil health. At the federal level, we focus on Farm Bill conservation programs, America’s largest source of funding for private lands conservation. At the state level, we help legislators understand the benefits of soil health and press for state funding and programs that help farmers and ranchers adopt soil health practices. At the local level, we support the work of conservation districts, who educate and support farmers on conservation practices. We are also testing strategies designed to accelerate the adoption of soil health systems on America’s farms and ranches.
By educating policymakers and others about soil health, we are working to reap the natural resource benefits right beneath our feet.