Environmental agricultural sustainability is climate-smart sustainable management of agricultural soils to conserve natural resources and protect agricultural ecosystems to support health and wellbeing, now and in the future
Sustainable agriculture seeks to sustain farmers, resources and communities by promoting farming practices and methods that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities.
Ecosystem goods and services produce the many life-sustaining benefits we receive from nature—clean air and water, fertile soil for crop production, pollination, and flood control. These ecosystem services are important to environmental and human health and well-being.
Unfortunately, human activities are destroying biodiversity and altering the capacity of healthy ecosystems to deliver this wide range of goods and services.
Agricultural ecosystems provide humans with food, forage, bioenergy and pharmaceuticals and are essential to human wellbeing. These systems rely on ecosystem services provided by natural ecosystems, including pollination, biological pest control, maintenance of soil structure and fertility, nutrient cycling and hydrological services. Agroecosystems produce a variety of ecosystem services, such as regulation of soil and water quality, carbon sequestration, support for biodiversity and cultural services.
Soil health is defined as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. Healthy soil gives us clean air and water, bountiful crops and forests, productive grazing lands, diverse wildlife, and beautiful landscapes.
Healthy soil is the foundation of productive, sustainable agriculture. Managing for soil health allows producers to work with the land – not against – to reduce erosion, maximize water infiltration, improve nutrient cycling, save money on inputs, and ultimately improve the resiliency of their working land.
They include carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapor. Due to respiration of soil microorganisms, the air in the soil has more carbon dioxide than the air we breathe.
Soil management practices, cropping systems, and weather conditions influence soil health. A healthy soil that is well managed can increase soil water infiltration and storage, storage and supply of nutrients to plants, microbial diversity, and soil carbon storage.
Healthy soil should be a nice, dark, black color. Soil with little to no life in it looks more like dirt: brown and dry. Poor soil will turn to brown mud when it gets wet. Healthy soil absorbs moisture beautifully and should not have a muddy feel.
Unhealthy soil doesn't have the moisture and nutrients needed to thrive, which makes it dry, crumbling, and cracked. When you pick up the dirt, it might crumble quickly in your hands or be difficult to break apart. Proper watering and irrigation will improve the soil's condition in these instances.