Soil Health and Water Quality

The principle of soil health underscores the functions of soils for plants and the environment, which are to provide a growing environment for plants to grow, recycle nutrients and organic materials, serve as a habitat for soil organisms, and purify and supply water. These functions are related to soil’s biological, chemical and physical properties. Soil type, climate and management greatly influence soil properties, and therefore these factors also influence soil health and water quality.

That said, it is difficult to correlate one soil property, or one soil health practice to specific water quality results. And while many times management that is beneficial to soil health is also beneficial to water quality, that is not always the case.

To learn more, the Soil Health Nexus has developed several resources:

  • A newly released whitepaper on Soil Health and Water Quality! This 10-page whitepaper provides a balanced approach to soil health when considering water quality issues and outlines those situations where soil health best management practices don’t improve water quality. It also includes numerous diagrams and pictures to illustrate the complex relationship between soil health and water quality and includes a table outlining soil health properties and their relative impact on water quality – an easy-to-use reference guide and resource for educators.
  • Our 2022 The Current Webinar outlining Soil Health’s Link to Water Quality. This webinar features three researchers who share their work examining how on-field soil health practices affect water quality off field.
  • Our 2022 Digital Café on Soil Health Practices and Water Behavior and Efforts to Quantify Soil Function. This café features Dr. Anna Cates, University of Minnesota Soil Health Specialist, who discusses on-farm efforts to quantify changes in soil function with soil health practice adoption, including soil organic matter pools, soil aggregates, and water infiltration.
  • The Current Webinar Series 2019 webinar exploring Soil Health and Water Quality. This webinar overviews the latest research from across the region on the connection between cover crops, tile drainage and tillage timing on nutrient and sediment runoff.