Special Opportunity for Soil Health Champions
NACD isn’t in the business of marketing products and services to landowners, but when we come across new and cutting-edge technology like this, we can’t help but pass it along.
Trace Genomics, a company staffed by bioinformaticians, data scientists, software engineers, and molecular biologists, has contacted NACD with an opportunity for the Soil Health Champions Network. To help Trace Genomics advance their knowledge on soil health, they have launched the Soil Microbial Health Initiative. The overall goal for this program is to develop a set of tools and strategies to improve and sustain the health of our soils, and this starts with the use of their soil test which measures soil biology rather than soil chemistry. This soil microbial test makes it easy for growers and agronomists to evaluate the crucial soil health metrics that influence crop yield. Simply put, Trace Genomics would like to collect information on what practices result in the differences in soil biology. From this data, they would be able to make recommendations to their clients and customers.
This soil test is made available at no cost to those growers who are interested in participating in the initiative. There are three projects to choose from in this initiative, and you can choose more than one:
Disease Discovery: Compare microbial profiles between diseased/low-producing fields, identifying possible causes of disease.
Operational Impact on Soil Health: Measure impacts of different cropping practices on soil microbial health and bio diversity. Cropping practices include cover cropping, fallow practices, organic farming, conventional farming, dry-farming, and irrigation farming.
Soil Treatment Time-Course: Characterize temporal shifts (i.e., shift across time) in soil microbial composition before and after soil treatment. Soil treatments include fumigant, fertilizer, soil conditioner (e.g., compost), growth stimulant (e.g., beneficial bacteria), pH adjustor (e.g., lime), pesticides, and fungicides.
Enrollment is free, but you must participate in at least one of these projects. Only those participants that participate will receive a complimentary view into their soil's microbial diversity and biomass shifts, but if you wish to obtain more in-depth, confidential insights on microbial identities, these can be obtained for an additional fee of $349. All data is kept anonymous.
If you are interested in either enrolling in this initiative or finding out more information, please contact Devon Sampson with Trace Genomics. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can contact him at 206-390-2863. If you choose to enroll, the soil samples must be sent in by the end of May 2017, so it is important to contact Devon soon.
Soil Health Calendar of Events
Your outreach efforts deserve to be promoted! Enhance our connections with other soil champs and broaden the reach of your outreach efforts by adding soil health events (whether they’ll be held at the state, regional, or national level) to the NACD online events calendar!
We’ll tag each of your calendar contributions as “SHCN” – for Soil Health Champions Network – so that you can easily search out the events you’re interested in.
All you need to do is send Beth Mason the event information you’d like to see on the website. Just don’t forget to include a link to the event webpage or a link to the event host’s website if there is one. NACD will update the SHCN items on the calendar every two weeks.
Although we hope you’ll send us information on your own outreach events, we’d also love to receive information on any soil health-related conferences and meetings you attend throughout the year. We coordinated a small group this past January at the No-Tillage Conference in St. Louis that soil champs said was a great time to network. NACD would like to organize these types of informal get-togethers throughout 2017 as a way to connect and share ideas within the network.
Soil Health for Non-Operator Land Owners webinar
Tuesday, April 11 at 2:00 pm Eastern, 60 minutes
Presenter: Jennifer Filipiak, Associate Midwest Director, American Farmland Trust
This webinar will focus on educating non-operator landowners on the benefits improving soil health has to increase the value of their land, and that it takes a solid working relationship between the landowner and farmer (often requiring changes in leasing structures) to obtain changes in soil health. The audience for this webinar is NOT the non-operator landowner, but those who want to do outreach/education with the non-operator land owner. Pre-registration is not required.
The Grazing Lands News
If you are a Soil Health Champion that uses grazing in your operations, be sure to sign up for the Grazing Lands News – an electronic newsletter from the National Grazing Lands Coalition. The group has announced their 7th national conference will be held in Reno, Nevada, December 2 - 5, 2018. Stay tuned for more information.
How to Conduct Research on your Farm or Ranch
This 32-page publication is available as a free download or in print format from USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. This technical bulletin provides detailed instructions for crop and livestock producers, as well as educators, on how to conduct research at the farm-level using practical strategies and peer-reviewed research findings.
The publication also includes a comprehensive list of in-depth resources and real-life examples – like the Missouri crop and livestock farmer who is testing the effect of additional cover cropping on forage available to his animals, and the West Virginia organic producer who is experimenting with an integrated trap crop and pheromone trap system for ecological management of stink bugs.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the available publications for free download in SARE’s Learning Center.
Frequently Asked Questions
As we continue to welcome Tennessee’s Soil Health Heroes to the NACD Soil Health Champion Network, now is a great time to explore the Tennessee Association of Conservation Districts’ website. TACD has a section of their website devoted to soil health that includes a Soil Health FAQ. Some of the questions may seem basic, but others are more in-depth. Consider this a source you might reference as you conduct your outreach. Sometimes there are different ways to explain what we’re trying to share. What’s your “go-to” source for soil health questions?
Facebook Question of the Day, March 27
Beth Mason: Cover Crops. I know they're not used everywhere for various reasons, but out in the Midwest, they're used frequently as a soil health/conservation practice. Would planting a cover crop be damaging to a cash crop if the area is in a drought? Would utilizing what little moisture there is for a cover crop be considered wasteful?
Ron Snyder (OH): Good question Beth.
Yes, a cover crop could be damaging to a cash crop in some cases. But this is where I think the education needs to begin. We have been pushing for thinner cover crops rather than more dense ones. This will open up the canopy and use less amounts of water while providing shade to the ground.
Cindy Huston Cunningham (MN): Our experience has been the opposite. During the historic drought of 2012, our cover cropped, no-till ground out-yielded all other systems. Better infiltration and water-holding capacity. The best way to damage a cash crop during a drought is to do tillage and have bare soil.
Jimmy Emmons (OK): Beth, we have proved every year, even in 2012, that a cover crop increased our yield by saving water through reduced evaporation. Keeping soil temperature down and increasing microbiology in the soil. That is a myth that we use all the water up.
Adrien Lavoie (NH): In 2016, I lost big time due to my cover crops, in 1 instance.
In my late sweet corn fields, planted June 21 to July 15, I like planting through fully mature 6 ft. tall cereal rye. Terminated with a roller crimper and no till planted. I like this method and the rye re-seeds itself for me. I had no rain in late June or July or August for that matter, and I used up all the moisture building the cover crop and planted into dust and had basically no germination of my cash crop. Well, it germinated in September, but obviously far too late to mature before winter.
I had great results with my early and mid-season cash crops using cover crops and no till, but the late stuff suffered.
I will just have to make a few adjustments to my program with some earlier termination if we get a nice early June rain, I'll put it down ahead of time to conserve the water.
Donavon Taves (LA): Ron Snyder used the word "could" and rightly so. That is what makes this group great. Diversity. No one will argue with him, as he knows his farm qualities and responses.
In Louisiana, I would side with Oklahoma on this- our typical weather (and planting of cash crops in March/April) lends towards increase benefit of increased biomass of cover. I plant winter cover which matures March/April. If I had to wait until Ron plants in Ohio (July!!??!!), there would be a good chance I would also plant into powder.
For those who weren’t involved in this Q&A exchange on Facebook, consider what YOUR answer would be! Thank you to all who shared. If you have a question to ask the group for diverse input, feel free to post in our Facebook group OR you may email me at email@example.com, and I can post for you anonymously. To join us, please search Facebook for the group “NACD Soil Health Champions” and ask to be invited. It is closed to the public to keep our discussions and sharing internal.
Want to write a guest blog post? It’s easy!
NACD wants to hear your soil health story! Did you recently hold an outreach event? Have you tried something new with your crop rotation or cover crop mix? What about your district – has it launched a new program or purchased a new piece of equipment to rent out to landowners?
We’d love to get your take! Just send your story idea to Director of Communications Whitney Forman-Cook. Typically blog posts are no longer than 500 words and include at least one good photo. If you have an idea for a blog post, but don’t have the time to write it out, email Whitney (at firstname.lastname@example.org) anyway, and she’ll help you work out the details.
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