USDA on Tuesday began its year-long celebration of the International Year of Soils, a larger awareness effort spearheaded by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership.
The International Year of Soils will highlight the importance of healthy soils for food security, ecosystem functions and resilient farms and ranches, USDA said.
"Healthy soil is the foundation that ensures working farms and ranches become more productive, resilient to climate change and better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during an event today at USDA headquarters.
The growing importance of soil is underlined by a shrinking ag land base, extreme weather events and climate change, USDA says, as the global population increases.
"Most people don't realize that just beneath our feet lies a diverse, complex, life-giving ecosystem that sustains our entire existence," said Jason Weller, chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. "We are helping producers unlock the power of soil health as part of an important and very successful national campaign. Our campaign demonstrates our renewed commitment to soil conservation and soil health."
Nearly 80 years ago, NRCS was created to improve the health and sustainability U.S. soils. That mission continues today as the NRCS will coordinate activities to mark USDA's involvement in the International Year of Soils.
According to USDA, management systems that include cover crops, conservation tillage and no-till, and crop rotations help landowners improve soil productivity.
These systems reduce sediment loss from farms and ranches, buffer the effects of drought, flood and other severe weather; sequester carbon and create biodiversity, USDA said.
Related: 5 Steps To Boost Soil Health
"International Year of Soils provides an opportunity for us to learn about the critical role soil conservation and improved soil health play in the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture," Weller said
Working with the Soil Science Society of America and other partners, NRCS will be showcasing the importance of soil with monthly themes created by SSSA:
January: Soils Sustain Life
February: Soils Support Urban Life
March: Soils Support Agriculture
April: Soils Clean and Capture Water
May: Soils Support Buildings/Infrastructure
June: Soils Support Recreation
July: Soils Are Living
August: Soils Support Health
September: Soils Protect the Natural Environment
October: Soils and Products We Use
November: Soils and Climate
December: Soils, Culture and People