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Soil is the basic ingredient that is necessary to produce crops in farming. Much like your car needs fuel to run, farming needs healthy soil to produce crops. Soil is an important resource and is the foundation for all life on Earth.

Healthy soil equals productive land and organic matter is the key to productive soil. Organic matter is the part of soil derived from various stages of the decomposition of plants and animals. It is important for soil structure, tilth and provides energy for microorganisms, improves water infiltration, increases water-holding capacity and reduces erosion.

In South Dakota, scientists estimate that it takes 500 years to form one inch of topsoil. Over 650 different soil types have been identified in South Dakota.

Houdek (pronounced hoo-deck) is the state soil of South Dakota. This type of soil is not found in any other state. Houdek and closely related soils can be found on more than two million acres across South Dakota.

Houdek soils consists of very deep, well drained soils. They are typically found on level to gently rolling land. Areas with Houdek soils are cultivated and most often used in crop production. Common crops grown on this soil include corn, small grain, alfalfa, and feed grains.


Farmers use conservation practices in order to protect and improve the quality of the soil and increase the crop yields. 

Healthy Soils Are...Fact Sheets. The below links are fact sheets to examine the major characteristics of healthy soil.

  • Full of Life

  • High in Organic Matter

  • Well Structured

  • Covered all the Time

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Soil Activities

Soil Activities


This coloring book, which focuses on soil and water conservation, is an effort to further explain the importance of conservation of our natural resources. The coloring book was designed by Melanie Sanderson and adapted from the Sammy Soil story by Earnest H. Whitaker and Sandra L. Purdue. Slightly revised by NRCS 2014. 


Click here to download. 


To order publications, visit the NRCS web site.

More Soil Materials & Activities

Materials and website resources are found in this document, compiled by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS).

Learn about soil and its importance while filling in missing letters to complete soil-related words

In this activity, students explore the concept of soil as a filter by conducting an experiment using sand and topsoil. They make hypotheses about what will happen to dirty water when it passes through these soils and record their observations. Through this hands-on experience, students learn about the role of soil in filtering impurities from water, similar to how it naturally purifies rainwater.

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