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Principles for High Functioning Soils

Soil health is the continued capacity of a soil to function as a vital, living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. Only living things can have “health,” so viewing soil as a living, breathing ecosystem reflects a shift in the way we view and manage our nation’s soils. Soil isn’t an inert growing medium, but rather is the home of billions of bacteria, fungi, and other organisms that together create an intricate symbiotic ecosystem. This ecosystem can be managed to support plants and animals, by cycling nutrients, absorbing, draining and retaining rainwater and snowmelt for use during dry periods, filtering and buffering water to remove potential pollutants, and providing habitat for the soil biological population to flourish and diversify to keep the ecosystem functioning well.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Washington, DC; USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Page Numbers
Publication Date
February 01, 2021
Publication Type
Fact Sheets and Technical Memos
Environmental Benefits, Farming Practices, Soil Health

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