LOSING SOIL CARBON. Longtime NRCS soil conservationist Barry Fisher says studies show that many of the most productive soils in the U.S. have lost more than half their soil organic matter (soil carbon).

Soil Function Key to Regenerative No-Till

Putting soil health at the center of a no-till operation can take a farm from status quo to truly regenerative with balanced and diversified soil biology, improved aggregate stability, increased water infiltration rates and improved nutrient cycling.

Longtime soil conservationist Barry Fisher says improving soil health requires well-planned, step-by-step actions aimed at specific goals. However, taking those steps can seems daunting, especially if they add complexity to a system that seems to be working well. In fact, making these changes can sometimes cause unintended ripple-effects to yields and bottom lines.  

Fisher recently retired from a post in the Soil Health Division of USDA-NRCS and currently operates Fisher Soil Health, a consulting firm specializing in soil health and regenerative farming. He serves as a Certified Crop Advisor for the Midwest Cover Crops Council and is a 38-year member of the Soil and Water Conservation Society. He and his wife, Michael, operate a cash grain and livestock operation in west central Indiana.

The Problem

“I can understand it’s easy to be complacent about soil health, particularly when overall yields continue to climb, and growers are raising some of the best crops of their careers,” he says. 

“Psychologically, it’s a challenge to make management decisions which pose risks to a long string of successful harvests,” he explains, adding: “A buck deer walks down the same path that it didn’t die on yesterday.”


  • Over 50% of a crop’s nutrient supply comes from the biology in the soil.
  • Nearly half of the carbohydrates produced through photosynthesis in plant leaves are transported to the roots as exudates, becoming food for soil microbes.
  • Diversity in plants provides a variety of exudates, which is the best way to ensure healthy microbial nutrition, an…
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Dan crummett 0618

Dan Crummett

Dan Crummett has more than 35 years in regional and national agricultural journalism including editing state farm magazines, web-based machinery reporting and has an interest in no-till and conservation tillage. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Oklahoma State Univ.

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