Explore soil health resources and publications to learn more about best practices for improving soil health on your farm or ranch

Soil Science 101


Economics of Soil Health – NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)

This discussion was part of the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s second Soil Health Innovations Conference in March of 2022, and discusses the economics behind investing in soil health.

Feeding the Vegetable Garden – MSU Extension (montana.edu)

This PDF gives a great introduction to vegetable garden fertility and has some helpful charts about effects of fertility deficiency on plants.

Soil Fertility Considerations for Market Gardens – MSU Extension (montana.edu)

This MontGuide summarizes three MSU Extension bulletins focused on soil fertility for market gardens: Soil Characteristics & Testing, Nitrogen & Sulfur, and Phosphorus, Potassium & Micronutrients.

Soil Testing: Getting a Good Sample – MSU Extension (montana.edu)

A helpful guide on testing your soil.

Soil Health Indicators and Tests – NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)

An excellent introduction to soil biology 101 and applications for farming.

Building Healthy Pasture Soils – NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)

This publication, a supplement to ATTRA’s Managed Grazing Tutorial session on Pasture Fertility, introduces properties of soil, discusses evaluation and monitoring of soil quality, and introduces grazing management principles and techniques that promote healthy soil.

 Soil Health 101: Principles for Livestock Production – NCAT ATTRA (youtube.com)

In this webinar, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Nina Prater talks about the five principles of soil health, with a particular focus on livestock production. She gives real world examples of how to put the soil health principles into practice.

What is Soil Health? – SARE (sare.org)

An interactive exploration of soil health and how to improve it.

Building Soils for Better Crops Book PDF – SARE (sare.org)

Extensive downloadable pdf book delving deep into soil management.

Soil and Water Management Course – MSU Extension (msuextension.org)

Excellent and succinct course covering soil biology, salinity, and erosion in soils from MSU Extension.


Soil Acidification: An Emerging Problem in Montana – MSU Extension (montana.edu)

Farmers in several Montana counties are experiencing nearly complete yield loss in portions of their fields due to soil acidity (low pH). Traditionally, soil acidity was not an issue in much of Montana as most soils in agricultural areas had naturally high pH. However, this is changing. This guide from Montana Statue University delves into the causes and solutions.


Organic Fertilizer and Cover Crop Calculators | Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences (oregonstate.edu)

These free online tools allow you to compare the nutrient value and cost of cover crops, organic and synthetic fertilizers and compost in acre and 1,000 ft2 units. You can use them to estimate nitrogen supplied by cover crops and organic fertilizers, and develop well balanced and cost effective nutrient management programs for your farm.

Toolkit: How to Reduce Synthetic Fertilizer Use – NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)

As more farmers and ranchers transition away from synthetic fertilizer use, NCAT’s ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program has a library of trusted and practical resources to increase self-reliance and limit or eliminate the use of synthetics.

Nutrient Cycling in Pastures – NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)’

This publication looks at the pathways and drivers that move nutrients into, out of, and within pasture systems. It attempts to provide a clear, holistic understanding of how nutrients cycle through pastures and what the producer can do to enhance the processes to create productive, regenerative, and resilient farm and ranch systems. Effective management of nutrient cycling in pastures is simply understanding how nature cycles nutrients in natural grasslands and then mimicking those processes.

Microbial Inoculants – NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)

This publication explains how microbial inoculants work, reviews current (in 2020) scientific literature and studies and offers practical recommendations and factors to consider before buying and using these products.

Alternative Soil Amendments – NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)

This publication covers soil amendments that are not standard agricultural fertilizers. These include plant and animal by-products, rock powders, seaweed, inoculants, conditioners and others.

Nutrient Management Plan (590) for Organic Systems Western State Implementation Guide – NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)

This document is an instruction guide for creating and implementing a nutrient management plan (NMP) on certified or transitioning organic

Orchard Nutrition – Western Agricultural Research Center | Montana State University

This web page outlines fertility needs for orchard systems, specifically apple trees.


Erosion and Water Management



 Soil for Water – NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)

This web page outlines helpful resources and articles about water conservation.


Measuring Water Infiltration in Agricultural Soils – NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)

In this video, Lisa Blazure of the Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition and NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Lee Rinehart discuss soil water conditions and demonstrate how to assess infiltration rates

Managing Soils for Water — NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)

Article outlining the 5 principles for soil health that support water infiltration and storage.


Indigenous Perspectives on Soil Health and Water – NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)

In this presentation, which was part of the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s second Soil Health Innovations Conferece, which was held in March 2022, current models and data are examined to demonstrate some impacts on indigenous lands and soil resulting from a kincentric ecological approach to land management.


Drought Resistant Soil — NCAT ATTRA (ncat.org)

Abstract: To minimize the impact of drought, soil needs to capture the rainwater that falls on it, store as much of that water as possible for future plant use, and allow for plant roots to penetrate and proliferate. These conditions can be achieved through management of organic matter, which can increase water storage by 16,000 gallons per acre foot for each 1% organic matter.

Cover Crops


Clover Living Mulch: How to Seed Your Clover. Part 1 – ATTRA – Sustainable Agriculture (ncat.org)

EB0237.pdf (msuextension.org)

CvrCropFront/1-52 (sare.org)

Estimating plant-available nitrogen release from cover crops (oregonstate.edu)

Organic Fertilizer and Cover Crop Calculators | College of Agricultural Sciences (oregonstate.edu)


Composting and Manure Application


compost-1.pdf (ncat.org)

compostforsmallfarms (ncat.org)

UMN-NDSU Online Manure Composting Workshop – YouTube

MT201206AG.pdf (sare.org)

Manures for Organic Crop Production ~ PDF (ncat.org)

vermicopost.indd (ncat.org)

Low-Till Equipment

Organic Agriculture

nutrient_mgmt.pdf (ncat.org)

organic tillage (ncat.org)

Tillage timing influences nitrogen availability and loss on organic farms | Penn State University (psu.edu)

Environmental Benefits of Organic Agriculture: Soil – Oregon Tilth

Nutrient-Management-in-Organic-Systems-Western-States-Implementation-Guide.pdf (tilth.org)

organic-nutrients.pdf (sare.org)

NRCS-CoverCrop_2013_Proof_V1 (ncat.org)

nop_soil_assessment-1.pdf (ncat.org)

manure.pdf (ncat.org)

nutrient_mgmt.pdf (ncat.org)

An Assessment of Organic Farming on Soil Physical and Chemical Properties — The Webinar Portal (conservationwebinars.net)





Rotational Grazing