SOIL HEALTH SUMMIT: LINKS EMERGING BETWEEN ECONOMICS, PRODUCTIVITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL GAINS ON THE FARM

JANUARY 2017

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third annual Soil Health Summit last week in Des Moines, Iowa. About 185 Ag scientists, industry leaders, environmentalists, water quality experts and enrolled farmers discussed their efforts to make agriculture more productive and sustainable through healthy soil.   …">

(Posted Thu. Jan 26th, 2017)

The Soil Health Partnership, an initiative of the NCGA, held its third annual Soil Health Summit last week in Des Moines, Iowa. About 185 Ag scientists, industry leaders, environmentalists, water quality experts and enrolled farmers discussed their efforts to make agriculture more productive and sustainable through healthy soil.

 

The key takeaway from the meeting: Building long-term data by its very nature takes time, but early indicators are promising on the relationship between soil health and economic, productivity and environmental gains in agriculture.

 

View photos, Brownfield coverage and farmer interviews from the summit.

 

“Through this program, we have powerful analytics underway providing early indicators of tangible links between soil health and enhanced farm performance,” said Nick Goeser, SHP director and NCGA director of soil health and sustainability.

 

Working with their agronomists and trained field managers, SHP farmers have enrolled about 32,000 acres to provide data for the analytics. The three main areas of study are cover crops, reduced tillage and advanced nutrient management.

 

Doug Karlen, a USDA distinguished senior research scientist based in Iowa, provided a first look into the soil sample data collected across SHP farms. His team analyzed data from approximately 700 soil health assessment samples. This data provides a basis to guide soil health assessment interpretations. 

 

For example, results indicate soil texture is extremely important for organic matter content, Goeser said. 

 

“While dry lab studies and analyses have documented the patterns shown, this is the first time the relationship has been supported across an on-farm trial network as expansive as the Soil Health Partnership,” he said. “These early looks will help us better understand opportunities and limitations to interpreting soil health assessments based on different regions and soil types. SHP is revolutionary in this effort.”

 

Other speakers at the conference included Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Working Lands Michael Doane, Purdue Agricultural Economics Professor Wallace Tyner, and AgSolver co-founder Dave Muth. Based in Ames, Iowa, farmers enrolled in SHP have access to AgSolver’s software tools to analyze a field’s agronomic and economic performances side-by-side, and compare potential management scenarios.

 

Three years into the program, the SHP teams, with support from AgSolver, are developing a preliminary research summary to be released soon.


The SHP works closely with diverse organizations including commodity groups, industry groups, federal agencies and well-known environmental groups, including TNC, toward common goals. The Partnership is completing its third year with more than 65 partner farms across nine Midwestern states.