Some farmers and soil scientists are starting to realize that the most important thing you can do is view topsoil itself as a living thing.
As Politico reports, since the invention of the plow, farming has focused on tillage - disrupting the soil to make it productive.
Most farming methods arise out of the idea that to plant crops and control weeds and other pests, the soil must be broken up and turned over, then treated with chemical fertilizers or organic compost to increase fertility. And that practice worked for a long time.
But as Politico reports, good soil is alive with a host of microorganisms that produce structure and nutrients. Tilling, it turns out, kills off many of the microorganisms that build the soil, making it easier for soil to be eroded by rain and wind.
As more is learned about the soil microbiome and the role it plays in the environment, scientists are beginning to see that promoting the health of those organisms is key to solving many agricultural problems.