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4 The Soil



Authors as Published

Authored by Eric Bendfeldt, Senior Extension Specialist, Community Viability and Food Systems, Virginia Tech/Virginia Cooperative Extension; Mary Sketch Bryant, Director, Virginia Soil Health Coalition, Virginia Tech; and Jeff Ishee, Host, On the Farm Radio

This publication is available in a website format only.

Soil is more than the dirt under our feet and the ground we stand on. It’s a living ecosystem and it impacts our world in more ways than we might think. Soil performs many functions to sustain plants, animals, and humans. The functions performed by healthy soil include water storage; good water infiltration and drainage; support high crop yields and high crop quality; providing habitat for diverse soil organisms and high microbial activity; supplying nutrients to plants; retaining and recycling nutrients (N, P, K, S, Mg, Ca, etc.); stores carbon; and reduces greenhouse gases.

We can all be for the soil so let’s take care of it.

Why 4 The Soil?

All of us have direct and indirect efforts on the soil. Whether when we maintain acres of farmland, an urban garden, or a lawn, or when we purchase produce and meat at the store, we all influence soil health. Notice how you interact with soil in your daily life.

Whether you're a farmer, a conservation professional, a nature lover, or a food lover, you can advocate for and support healthy soils.

4 the Soil is an initiative of the Virginia Soil Health Coalition and Virginia Cooperative Extension to raise awareness of soil as a critical natural resource for current and future generations. By caring for the soil, we can build healthier communities, stronger economies, and a more resilient landscape.

Why does the logo have the number 4?

While soils are complex, taking care of soil can be simple. We follow four core principles of soil health:

  • Keep soil covered
  • Minimize disturbance
  • Maximize living roots
  • Energize with diversity

Each principle builds on the other. We can start with one and implement each as we grow in ways that fit our lifestyle and landscape.

Building healthy soils might seem like a massive undertaking. Every day it faces erosion, compaction, nutrient imbalance, acidification, pollution, and decreased water retention. But we can help.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments. Its programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, sex (including pregnancy), gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, military status, or any other basis protected by law

Publication Date

February 14, 2024