Healthy Soils

Healthy Soils for a Healthy Bay & Healthy Planet

“We are at the most critical moment in the history of our species, as man-made changes to the climate threaten humanity’s security on Earth … the solution is farming. Simply put, we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices…” – Rodale Institute

Farmers who use healthy soil practices can produce economically and environmentally sustainable healthy food, while sequestering carbon that will help address climate change. While there is no commonly accepted definition of “healthy soil,” there are scientifically sound practices that develop healthy soil. While there still is much to be learned about healthy soil development, there is agreement that soil rich with living organisms and able to function as a biological system is a key component for healthy soil and sequestering carbon.

Want to learn more? Here’s MPEN’s Healthy Soils Practices Fact Sheet

MPEN’s Healthy Soils Initiative

The Pesticides & The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Project develops and implements models of action to address pesticide use, impact and runoff into the watershed. Our Healthy Soils Initiative, launched in 2017, is a growing part of that effort.

MPEN is represented on the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Soils Consortium, whose purpose is to share and review data on what constitutes health soils practices for optimal carbon sequestration to address crop productivity and climate change. The state legislature passed a law in 2017 to establish a healthy soils program to provide farmers with resources and, if possible, financial assistance to transition to healthy soil that improves productivity and sequesters carbon. Data that the Consortium is processing will be shared with the state’s Climate Change Commission, which is charged with deciding what practices farmers need to implement to qualify for the program’s benefits.

Organic Farming Restores Soil Carbon and Addresses Climate Change

A growing body of peer-reviewed scientific research shows that organic agriculture greatly reduces agriculture’s contribution to climate change. In one of the largest field studies of its kind ever conducted, a groundbreaking 2017 study by Northeastern University and The Organic Center – reported in the journal Advances in Agronomy – analyzed how organic farming affects the soil’s ability to keep carbon out of the atmosphere.

Resources on Healthy Soil

The Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania has long been the nation’s leading expert on organic agriculture and more recently has pioneered the Regenerative Agriculture movement that links organic, sustainable agriculture with healthy soil and carbon sequestration. Rodale in 2017 launched the new Regenerative Organic Certification, a cooperative effort among farmers, ranchers, nonprofits and scientists, to establish a “high-bar standard” for regenerative organic agriculture. Here are some important resources from Rodale…

Additional Resources

The Maryland Organic Food & Farming Association and the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition are two important organizations in the state with work relevant to organic agriculture and healthy soil. Here are their information resource pages…


Farmer Information Kit on Best Management Practices to Reduce Pesticide Impacts

Our Pesticides & The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Project has produced a Farmer Information Kit to address the concerns of farmers in the Bay region with at-a-glance, constructive information on a number of important issues related to pesticide use – especially Best Management Practices (BMPs) and conservation planning to reduce pesticide impact on health and the environment.