Soil Health Principles

This page goes over the five principles of soil health as taught by soil health educators.

Know your Context

First things first, it’s important to incorporate the context of local conditions into all decision-making about soil health, including for example, soil type, topography, and time of year, land history and regional economics.

Knowledge is information in context. This article describes why focusing on context can help us understand situations that may prevent us from healing our soils.

Principle 1

Soil Armor/Cover the Soil

Soil armor or cover, provides numerous benefits for cropland, rangeland, hayland, gardens, orchards, road ditches, and more.

Take a closer look at some of the benefits of soil armor.

Principle 2

Minimize Soil Disturbance

Minimizing soil disturbance is a good start to rebuilding soil aggregates, pore spaces, soil glue, and soil organic matter. This is an essential step for long term soil productivity.

Learn more about this principle, and watch a presentation by Regenerative Land Solutions, which provides some examples of what soil biology is and why it is important, with some examples of projects to improve soil biology.

Principle 3

Increase Species Diversity

Diverse crop rotations mimic our original plant diversity landscapes. They are important to the long term sustainability of our soil resource and food security.

Learn more about this principle, and watch a presentation by Robin Kelson of the Good Seed Company sharing why seed saving libraries are important and what an increased seed diversity can do.

Principle 4

Maintain Continual Live Plant/Root

Cover crops can address a number of resource concerns and allow the continuation of the soil food web through the entire growing season. 

Learn more about this principle, and read a handout from Integrity Soils which walks us through how weeds and invasive plants are indications or symptoms of a larger problem with our soil health.

Principle 5

Livestock Integration

Animals, plants, and soils have played a synergistic role together over geological time. In recent years, animals are playing a reduced role due to being placed in confinement and fewer farms now include livestock as part of their overall operation.

Learn more about this principle, and read a resource from the National Center for Appropriate Technology that explains why integrating animals into land management, including grazing animals, birds, and beneficial insects, is beneficial.

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