Soils are a living, breathing ecosystem! Soils can be a rich and dynamic ecosystem that serve as the foundation of food systems, and help regulate water, air quality, and the climate. Soils support organisms ranging from microscopic organisms (e.g., bacteria) to insects and worms, to larger animals like moles and snakes, to fungi and plants of all sizes! Soil nutrients are critical for plant and organisms’ healthy lives. The physical properties of soils including soil density and the amount of sand, silt, and clay (the three soil particle sizes that makeup soil) help determine where we can build our homes, roads, and schools.
Soil health is at the intersection of soil biology, chemical, and physical properties. It requires us to look at all three components to determine the health of the soil. The USDA NRCS has defined soil health as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. This definition highlights the importance to manage soils as a living resource so that our soils are sustainable for future generations. Healthy soil will vary based on climate and inherent soil properties.