CHAMPAIGN — The NRCS has been working to preserve soil health for almost 80 years.
“It has been important to us since the dust bowl days,” says Paige Buck, Illinois NRCS state public affairs specialist.
The general public’s interest in ag practices, along with a decreasing number of farmers, has revived an interest in the importance of soil, she says.
“Some practices farmers are doing to help the soil, they have been doing for years, but some of the newer and bigger farms have just reintroduced these practices,” she says. “We need to baby the soil a bit more and not work it so hard.”
To help farmers, there are many online and mobile resources. The Soil Health Theater app was developed by the USDA and NRCS to compile video demonstrations on soil health featuring men and women who are farming with soil-health management systems.
“Most people don’t realize that just beneath our feet lies a diverse, complex, life-giving ecosystem that sustains our entire existence,” says Jason Weller, chief of the NRCS.
“We are helping producers unlock the power of soil health as part of an important and very successful national campaign.”
THE WEBSITE (http://tinyurl.com/nsh4jz9) offers soil health lessons in minute-long video profiles of some of the nation’s farmers to find out how they are using soil-health management systems to make their farms more profitable.
Another mobile resource is the SoilWeb smartphone app.
“This app combines online survey information with GPS capabilities of smartphones,” explains Buck.
“The SoilWeb app is a portable version of the UC-Davis California Soil Resource Lab’s web-based soil survey data from NRCS.”
The app is particularly useful for those working out in a field, she says. Web Soil Survey (WSS), an online tool for accessing soils information, paved the way for this mobile app.
“WSS provides quick access to the most current data produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey,” Buck says. “Until recently, a disadvantage of the web-based soil survey format was that it was limited to desktop computers with an internet connection.”
TO MAKE it more mobile, the SoilWeb app was created.
“It has been steady growth for soil health programs,” Buck says.
“Especially in the last five years, soil health has been at the top of our priority list because there are so many other industries besides ag that are seeing the need to be sustainable, and NRCS is working to get everyone on board.”
The many digital and online interfaces to help farmers “were needed and will be valued in the 21st century,” says Buck.