Soil Fertility

Melon in garden
Soil fertility Using organic methods

“Understanding the principles by which native soils function can help farmers develop and maintain productive and profitable soil both now and for future generations. The soil, the environment, and farm condition benefit when the soil’s natural productivity is managed in a sustainable way. Reliance on purchased inputs declines year by year, while land value and income potential increase. Some of the things we spend money on can be done by the natural process itself for little or nothing. Good soil management produces crops and animals that are healthier, less susceptible to disease, and more productive.” From ATTRA’s Sustainable Soil Management Soil Systems Guide.

Visit the Organic Resources page for more information.

Weed 'Em and Reap

eXtension's Weed ‘Em and Reap, is a two part series. Part 1 showcases tools and reduced tillage strategies for organic weed management. Part 2 features researchers and farmers demonstrating and describing organic reduced tillage vegetable production systems in West Virgina, North Carolina, and Montana. Organic reduced tillage strategies control weeds, improve soil quality, provide beneficial insect habitat, and in some cases reduce pest damage. 

eXtension web image

eXtension is unlike any other search engine or information-based website. It’s a space where university content providers can gather and produce new educational and information resources on wide–ranging topics. Because it’s available to students, researchers, clinicians, professors, as well as the general public, at any time from any Internet connection, eXtension helps solve real-life problems in real time.”

Tipi Produce

Organic farmer Steve Pincus, of Tipi Produce, describes his general approach to soil fertility: compost and other bulky organic materials. Tipi Produce is located outside of Madison Wisconsin. They market their produce in regional cooperatives and whole food stores, and operate a CSA. This video was filmed during a field day, in the autumn of 2008: Beyond NPK at Tipi Produce Farm.

Natural Systems Agriculture

natural systems agriculture

Martin Entz from the University of Manitoba’s Department of Plant Sciences and his research team have created and compiled several videos about topics within Sustainable Agriculture systems. Dr. Entz and his team use the term “Natural systems agriculture” to describe their work:

“First, we are committed to a fundamental change in the way agriculture is practiced. Second, we believe that using nature as the standard is the best approach for building this new agricultural system. Finally, Canadian prairie farmers have a strong conservation ethic, and have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to the land and to ‘farming in nature’s image.’ Farmers are active partners in our research.”

Basic Concepts in SOil Management

Feeding the Soil

Jonathan Deenik of the University of Hawaii offers this presentation, Basic Concepts in Nutrient Management for Organic Farming  focusing specifically on nutrient management for organic farming. “Feeding the soil,” nutrient deficiencies and soil tests all receive coverage in this science-based presentation.


Building Soils for Better Crops

The national SARE program has published Building Soils for Better Crops Second Edition, by Fred Magdoff of the University of Vermont, the regional SARE Director and long–time advocate of practical and resource–efficient soil fertility management, and Harold van Es. The new edition includes effective management strategies that farmers can use to maintain soil organic matter using primarily on–farm, internal resources. They detail how fertility management can accompany appropriate crop and cover crop choices that influence soil structure and soil health, and also how to interpret soil test results for cost–effective soil fertility management. The entire text is available on their web site.

Soil Quality Iowa State

Soil Quality from Iowa State

A good overview of soil quality and soil fertility provided by the Iowa State University Bulletin 1882 compiled by Kathleen Delate et al: “Building and maintaining soil quality is the basis for successful organic farming. However, before developing a soil management plan focused on soil quality in organic systems, farmers should become knowledgeable regarding the overall philosophies, legalities, and marketing opportunities in organic agriculture.”

Natural Resources conservation service

Natural Resources Conservation Service

This highly inclusive NRCS website about soil quality includes multiple references to organic farming and other practices related to soil fertility and pest management: