Soil Health Principles

• Much of soil life is fed by liquid carbon compounds produced by plant photosynthesis, exuded through plant roots. Keep living roots in the ground as much of the year as possible.

• Soil life is hard at work building underground structures that form a porous, strong “soil sponge,” the foundation of life on land. Allow the structure of the soil sponge to grow deeper and stronger by minimizing soil disturbance.

• Soil life needs protection from heat, pounding rain, and wind. Keep soil covered year-round (preferably with living plants, dead plant litter, or mulch.)

• A diverse system is more resilient than a monoculture. Increase the diversity of plants growing together, to provide food and habitat for diverse soil microorganisms, beneficial insects, birds, and other species.

• Like any other living system, soil ecology will succumb to overwhelming stresses (such as excessive use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, compaction, undergrazing, overgrazing, etc.) Minimize chemical, physical, and biological stresses.

• A healthy landscape soaks up, stores and filters water, cools the surrounding atmosphere, creates mist and clouds, and is more resilient to flooding and drought. Natural communities involving all kingdoms of life are responsible for the water cycle on land. Plan, monitor, and adapt your management with the whole water cycle in mind.

• Nature never farms without animals. Animals move nutrients, create small and large pores in soil, manage flows of water, pollinate crops, balance predator/ prey relationships, and replenish soil microbes. Find ways to integrate and welcome a diversity of animals, birds, and insects into the system.

• Every place has a history, and unique strengths and vulnerabilities. Get to know

   the context of the land.

© 2020 Didi Pershouse, Land and Leadership Initiative., (based on NRCS Soil Health Principles.) Feel free to copy, share, and use for non-commercial purposes with attribution.