Building Soil for Healthy Crops


We have written this book with farmers, farm advisors, students, and gardeners in mind, although we have also found copies of earlier editions on the bookshelves of many of our colleagues. Building Soils for Better Crops is a practical guide to ecological soil management that provides background information as well as details of soil-improving practices. This book is meant to give the reader a holistic appreciation of the importance of soil health and to suggest ecologically sound practices that help to develop and maintain healthy soils. Building Soils for Better Crops has evolved over time.

The first edition focused exclusively on the management of soil organic matter. If you follow practices that build and maintain good levels of soil organic matter, you will find it easier to grow healthy and high-yielding crops. Plants can withstand droughty conditions better and won’t be as bothered by insects and diseases. By maintaining adequate levels of organic matter in soil, you have less reason to use as much commercial fertilizer, lime, and pesticides as many farmers now purchase. Soil organic matter is that important.

Organic matter management was also the heart of the second edition, but we decided to write a more comprehensive guide that includes other essential aspects of building healthy soils, such as managing soil physical properties and nutrients, as well as a chapter on evaluating soil health (chapter 22). In addition, we updated
farmer case studies and added a new one. The case stud-
ies describe a number of key practices that enhance the
health of the farmers’ soils.
Many chapters were rewritten, expanded, and reorganized for the third edition—some completely. A chapter on physical properties and issues was divided into two (chapters 5 and 6), and chapters were added on the principles of
ecological soil management (chapter 8) and on irrigation
and drainage (chapter 17). The third edition, while still
focusing on farming and soils in the United States, has a
broader geographical scope; the book has evolved into a
more comprehensive treatise of sustainable soil management for a global audience.

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