Check it out: New Resource for Healthy Soils and Climate Resilience

By Gabrielle Roesch-McNally

Hand holding a clod of soil full of roots and worms
Healthy soils can build greater resilience and reduce risks in the face of more extreme and variable weather. Photo: Aaron Roth/NRCS under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Climate change is expected to increase the vulnerability of our agriculture and natural resource systems. In the face of more extreme and variable weather, there are a suite of soil health management practices that land managers can adopt to build greater resilience and to reduce risks in their agricultural operations (examples of strategies in Figure 1).

Through engagement with land managers and those who work with them, including Extension, Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS), and Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) professionals, it became clear that many of them were interested in soil health and its linkages with climate change adaptation and mitigation. As a result, Oregon NRCS and the USDA Northwest Climate Hub partnered to develop a resource to aid advisors and land managers in discussing soil health and climate resilience together.

Figure with four quadrants, listing practices in four classes to improve soil health
Figure 1. NRCS’s soil health principles coupled with soil resilience strategies. Figure reproduced with permission from factsheet, entitled: Applying Soil Health Management Systems to Reduce Climate and Weather Risks in the Northwest.

This factsheet, entitled “Applying Soil Health Management Systems to Reduce Climate and Weather Risks in the Northwest,” explores soil health principles—minimize disturbance and maximize soil cover, biodiversity and presence of roots—that can assist land managers in creating more resilient soil resources aimed at mitigating risks associated with more extreme and variable weather. Specifically, this factsheet provides the following:

  • An overview of climate change projections for the Northwest
  • A synthesis of regional climate impacts to agricultural production
  • Evidence on how climate change is projected to impact soil resources
  • Strategies for applying a range of soil health management systems to reduce climate and weather related risks
  • Advice to agricultural professionals for talking with farmers about climate change
  • Details regarding relevant decision-making tools that link climate change response and conservation actions

Head to the USDA Northwest Climate Hub’s website to get more information about the factsheet, and to explore other regional projects on this topic.

For further explorations of soil health and climate resilience on AgClimate.net, check out some of our past articles on the topic: