Regional Soil Health Capacity Building

Regional Soil Health Capacity Building

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Situation/Need

Many conventional farmers don’t believe that improving soil health can improve their bottom line. Fewer still believe that changes they can make will improve the ability of their fields to mitigate climate variability or to protect water quality. Farmers who try a few practices (e.g. cover crops, no-till) often give up after the first few years, due to challenges in controlling the cover crop or managing crop residue, or because of perceived yield losses/increased pest problems. Many first line professionals, such as Extension educators, Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) staff and Certified Crop Advisors (CCA), don’t have the advanced knowledge, training, or tools to adequately assist these farmers. There is also minimal collaboration from these professionals across the region on addressing the problem and finding a beneficial solution on how to educate growers on soil health.

Goals/Actions

Short term goals:

  • Create a working group with representatives (field and specialist level) from across the region
  • Develop an approach/methodology for a regional framework to address soil health implementation
  • Identify and inventory existing training, trainers and resources, including 1890 and 1994 Land Grants in the region
  • Identify and prioritize gaps/barriers in soil health knowledge.
  • Identify a primary gap/barrier and develop a publication to fill need-Possible example: State of knowledge of the economics of soil health practices
  • Leverage an existing Extension Soil Health Conference to provide training to Extension staff in the region and build project momentum. Provide follow up webinars to share research and state level Extension approaches.

Long term goals:

  • Build capacity in each state’s Land Grant systems to deliver soil health training, research and resources
  • Lay groundwork to apply for grants (AFRI, GLRI, others) to address identified needs
  • Collaborate on future efforts to address identified gaps/barriers.
  • Create a permanent, functioning group, based on the MCCC, that will allow LandGrant universities to share information, resources and research on soil health.

Intended Impacts

The project will create a North Central Soil Health Work Group with representatives from Land Grant Universities across the 12 state region. The work team members will participate in a soil health conference to improve their knowledge in soil health and develop a common body of knowledge and accepted science that will be used in developing the regional framework to address soil health education. This team will be the foundation for an ongoing collaborative multi state network that’s goal is to increase the visibility and understanding of soil health for Extension educators, agency professionals, agronomists, Certified Crop Advisors and farmers in the North Central Region. The team will develop and deliver soil health education at field days, workshops, webinars and printed resources.

Contact:

Kevin Erb
Conservation Professional Development and Training Coordinator Environmental Resources Center
1150 S Bellevue Street
Green Bay, WI 54302
Phone: 920.391.4652
kevin.erb@ces.uwex.edu