Healthy Soil

Conservation Priorities

Why healthy soil is important

Soil is one of the most complex ecosystems on earth and it's the foundation of all life on Earth. One handful of soil contains more organisms than there are people on the planet!

Healthy soil is important for healthy ecosystems above ground.

  • Soil microbes feed growing plants

  • Healthy soil helps capture rain water and holds it for growing plants

  • Soil acts as a filter to keep streams, lakes, and drinking water clean

  • Healthy, well-managed soil may capture and store carbon to help mitigate climate change

On this page:

    What is soil?

    Soil is a living system made of minerals, air, water, and organic matter.

    Minerals are described by size from largest to smallest: sand, silt, and clay. The amount of each of these minerals determines the texture of the soil and how well it drains or holds onto water.

    The organic matter is made of living roots, decayed plant material, and microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae.

    In a tiny pinch of soil, there is an abundance of life and a web of activity. Microorganisms and plants interact around the plant's roots. Bacteria and fungi provide nutrients that growing plants need, and plants return different nutrients that the organisms need.

    Illustration courtesy of Wendy E. Giminski.

    How do you keep soil healthy?

    Feed it and protect it!

    • Add organic matter

      Use cover crops, crop rotation, year-round crops, and add compost

    • Maximize diversity

      Grow many different kinds of plants

    • Keep it covered

      Use cover crops, mulch

    • Don’t disturb it

      Use low or no-till methods

    Soil education partnership


    We are partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Oregon State University Extension Service to provide farmers with the information and resources they need to improve soil health and increase soil organic matter. Specific cover crop recommendations and financial assistance may be available to help farmers get started. Learn more about our Financial Assistance services.

    What we do

    Our work is rooted in healthy soil and it’s the foundation of all of our conservation projects. Most of our soil work falls into these categories:

    Related services

    Find out if you're in our service area.

    Soil School

    Each year we partner with our neighbors at Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District to host Soil School, a day-long workshop that includes multiple sessions on a wide variety of topics – all having to do with soil.

    soil book and soil_400px

    Soil resources

    Staff contact

    Scott Gall

    Farm & Soil Conservationist

    Contact me about:

    Soil health; Farms and livestock; Equity and inclusion
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    Kammy Kern-Korot


    Senior Conservationist

    Contact me about:

    Oregon oak, savanna, wetlands and riparianRiparian areas The land alongside a creek, river, pond, or other body of water habitats; Emerald ash borer; conservation planning and native plantings for pollinators and other wildlife on rural lands.
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