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Soil, Water & Compost

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Soil Health & Conservation | Water | Composting

Soil Health & Conservation

Cornell’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences Web Site

Cornell’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences web site contains research, extension, recent publications, and featured links.

Cornell Soil Health Test

Cornell offers a comprehensive soil health test that looks at not only chemical factors, but biological and physical components of the soil.

Building Soils for Better Crops

This book is directed to the needs of farmers, gardeners, students, and agriculture professionals who work with farmers. It discusses managing soil tilth, using appropriate tillage, and nutrient management. There are also chapters on using animal manures, making and using composts, cover crops, how to develop better rotations, methods to avoid compaction, reduced tillage, and other techniques for reducing erosion.

Soil Organic Matter Calculator

Researchers with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences have developed a new tool that allows farmers to easily predict soil organic matter content and can help them make decisions about whether or not to sell crop residue. 

Soil Testing for Contaminated Sites Webinar

Cornell Garden-Based Learning and the Department of Crop and Soil Science are offering the archived version of a webinar entitled Soil Testing for Contaminated Sites that aired May 29 as part of the Soil/Compost theme for 2012.  This webinar discussed common contaminants, proper sampling procedures, safety measures, and best management practices for soil.  The archived webinar can be found at

Natural Resources Conservation Service – New York

U.S. Department of Agriculture NRCS web site offers an excellent collection of information resources on a wide range of soil and water management practices. It also provides detailed and up-to-date information about the many USDA loan and grant programs that can help farmers conserve soil and water resources. NRCS technical staff are located in 47 field offices in New York State. They provide one-on-one assistance to private landowners and local governmental units in all aspects of natural resource protection including soil erosion control, wetland restoration, grazing management, wildlife habitat restoration, water quality improvement, livestock manure management, nutrient management, and flood protection. They deliver conservation programs to local landowners, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, and the Small Watershed Program.

National Association of Conservation Districts

NACD is the national voice of America’s 3000 local conservation districts. By working with landowners, organizations, and government, districts have helped to protect our soil, water, forests, wildlife, and other resources for over 60 years. Find your local SWC District in the white pages under “U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.”

Microbial Soil Test to Help Reduce Fertilizer Overuse

USDA Agricultural Research Service soil scientist Richard Haney has developed a soil test that replicates some of the natural processes that occur in a field and accounts for that microbial activity, along with measuring nitrate, ammonium (NH4), and organic nitrogen. The new test is known as the Soil Health Tool. The tool measures organic carbon and other nutrients, accounts for the effects of using cover crops and no-till practices, and will work for any crop produced with nitrogen or other types of nutrient fertilizer. The tool is explained here:

Science of Soil Health Videos

A new series of videos, called “The Science of Soil Health,” is designed to provide new insight into how to improve soil health while benefiting the environment and lowering production costs. The series includes interviews with some of the nation’s leading experts in soil biology, agronomy, entomology, and soil ecology. View the videos at

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Soil Health, Water & Climate Change: A Pocket Guide to What You Need to Know

This pocket guide provides policymakers, educators, journalists and the general public the basic information needed for developing a framework that supports a thriving soil ecosystem. This resource provides an introduction to the latest innovations in science and farming related to building soil health, and how implementing such practices on a wide scale basis can make agriculture a powerful force for creating a landscape that is good for our water and our climate. Download the pocket guide for free:

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Farm Pond Management

This Cornell Cooperative Extension web site contains fact sheets, links, and images related to commercial farm pond management in New York State. It is intended for the education of farm operators and other rural land owners in New York State.

Garden Irrigation Planning Guide

Easy Garden Irrigation has published a guide to garden irrigation planning. If you are just starting your journey in planning and installing a garden irrigation system for your garden, this is the place to start. Everything starts with effective planning, and this guide will help walk you through every step of the process to ensure you get it right first time. Find the guide here:

Free Irrigation Apps

The University of Florida has recently released a series of free apps designed to improve irrigation efficiency. The crop-specific apps collect information from growers on root length and crop location and combine it with real-time information from weather providers to create irrigation schedules. Apps for citrus and strawberries are already available; one for cotton is under development. The apps can be accessed here:

New York State Water Resources Institute

Cornell’s Water Resources Institute is a university-wide institute of Cornell faculty and staff whose purpose is to conduct water research and education projects in support of the public, water suppliers, businesses, and governments.

Drip Irrigation for Small Vegetable Farms Publication

A drip-irrigation system – when properly designed, maintained and operated – can be a production asset for a small farm. Using drip irrigation for profitable vegetable production requires an understanding of several basic engineering and horticultural concepts and their application. The University of Florida IFAS Extension recently published this resource in order to present the principles behind drip irrigation and some practical guidelines for successful and profitable use of drip irrigation. You can access the resource here:


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ATTRA Soils and Compost Resources

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas offers a large selection of fact sheets and publications on how to assess, improve, and maintain soil health for both croplands and pastures. Several publications address fertilization and composting specifically for organic production. Soil management can also play an important role in protecting water quality, and additional resources are listed on that topic.

Composting Publications: PALS Publishing

PALS Publishing provides a few books that detail composting processes mechanisms. These are available for purchase on their site.

How to Add Compost on Your Small Farm

Compost provides nutrients to plants, improves soil structure, increases water-holding capacity, and suppresses root diseases by supporting beneficial microorganisms in the soil. It also helps improve porosity and the friability or ability to work the soil. It also increases water penetration and exchange of gases, reduces compaction, and improves soil texture. ATTRA’s publication, How to Add Compost on Your Small Farm, is your guide to the benefits of compost regardless of farm size. Download a PDF of the guide for free:

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