“A nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
Soil and Water Conservation Districts have a long history for soil conservation. Historical efforts have been focused on erosion from wind and water. However recent research studies show the long term productivity and sustainability of soil may be just as threatened by reduction in organic matter. Soil organic matter (also known simply as organic matter, organic content, or humus) is the component of soil that is made up of plant and animal residue in various stages of decomposition. SOM is the most variable component of soil. While sand, silts and clay will vary little over of hundreds of years, SOM can change drastically over a few short years.
Soil organic matter is also one of the most dynamic and influential components of soil: it acts as a binding agent to hold soil in place, it’s able to soak up water and hold if for long dry periods, and it’s very efficient at holding and releasing nutrients to plants. As SOM decreases, the amount of irrigation and fertilizer necessary to grow and optimize crop yields diminishes rapidly.
West Multnomah SWCD’s Soil Health Program helps farmers follow the four basic principles of soil health:
1. Keep it covered
2. Limit disturbance
3. Keep a living root in the soil AND
4. Diversify to benefit microorganisms
WMSWCD is partnering with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Oregon State University Extension to provide farmers the education and resources they need to improve soil health and increase soil organic matter. OSU extension may be able to provide specific cover crop recommendations while WMSWCD and the USDA-NRCS may be able to provide financial assistance to help farmers get started. Click on this Soil Health Flyer for more information. Help is also available to install native plants, which help minimize soil erosion and improve soil health, along key waterways, including on Sauvie Island through the Healthy Streams Program.
Most of our soil work falls into these categories:
- Soil health on your working farm
- Soil health in your garden
- Soil health and erosion control along your stream (See the Healthy Streams Program)
To learn how to test your soil, click here.
To find out where to take your soil sample to be tested, click here.
To learn how to interpret your soil test results, click here.
To learn more about cover crops, click here.
For a map of Sauvie Island soils, click here.
Please search under Programs or in the Library for a lot more information on improving your soil health!