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Soil Health

March 4, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Elena Bickell

Soil health management systems provide a range of benefits to farmers and the community, such as drought and flood resilience, stormwater management, and improved water quality. Common soil health practices include reduced-till farming, planting cover crops, and rotating crops. No-till farming (continuous or rotational no-till) in Missouri covers about 4.6 million acres, while cover crops were planted on an estimated 1 million acres in the fall of 2020 and used on over 6,000 Missouri farms. 


  • At least 29 U.S. states support an incentive program on soil health and provide technical or financial assistance for implementing agricultural best management practices. 
  • Typically, the programs that promote soil health come in the form of supply chain incentives, technical assistance, education, research, incentive payments, grants, cost-sharing, or insurance discounts.
  • Investing and adopting soil health practices and systems may benefit farmers directly if the private benefits (increased profits, ecosystem services) are greater than the cost of implementation.


  • Researchers are still collecting long-term data on the benefits of soil health practices and more data is needed on how to implement the practices for different soil types and crops while reducing the landowners’ private cost.
  • There are multiple barriers that may prevent farmers from adopting soil health practices, such as social barriers, economic barriers, or supply chain limitations.


This Note has been updated. You can access the previous version (published August 2021) here.

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