People standing under a tent in a farm field

Soil Health Nexus Team looks to expand economic and livestock integration resources for ag professionals

We are excited to announce that the Network’s soil health team, the Soil Health Nexus, has recently received a North Central Region SARE Professional Development Grant to expand their outreach and education efforts. The grant, which started this month, will allow the team to enhance its Soil Health Toolbox, a resource hub for research-based soil health resources throughout the North Central Region, and create two new resources for ag professionals.

One of the main deliverables of the project is a new Soil Health Decision-Making Framework. The framework will map key soil health indicators with economic data allowing agricultural educators to discuss soil health practice suggestions and their economic implications with farmers and ranchers using the most detailed information possible.

“There are a lot of soil health resources available to producers and ag educators, but very few if any connect soil health indicator data with economic data,” notes Michael Langemeier of Purdue University, who is leading the development of the Soil Health Decision-Making Framework. “Hopefully, with this project we can work to address that resource gap. We know that, in addition to examining short-run agricultural profitability, we also need to examine the impact of soil erosion and soil degradation on long-term profitability. This project will address these issues by providing key resources and training on soil health profitability that agricultural educators can use to connect soil health information with known data.”

The Nexus will also adapt the popular Interactive Nutrient Management Decision-Making Exercise to focus on soil health principles and practices that make the most sense based on goals, context, and farm management. The current exercise curricula was developed in 2020 by Extension professionals in Nebraska and Minnesota and it utilizes a table-top map game board and pre-planned scenarios where small groups decide manure application sites based on expenses, agronomic benefits, water quality risks, weather forecasts and more. Using funds from the grant the Soil Health Nexus team will expand this exercise to include a variety of field scale soil health decisions beyond manure application.

In addition, this funding will allow the Soil Health Nexus to continue it’s soil health outreach efforts, including hosting region-wide soil health in-service events for ag educators, continuing to host the popular monthly Soil Health Nexus Digital Café webinar series, and providing outreach and communication for nexus and partner soil health resources.

“Farmers are clamoring for soil health information,” notes Christina Curell, PI for the project. “And there are a lot of great soil health resources out there for ag professionals. This grant will help us add to those resources and get them in the hands of the people who need them. The Nexus has a long history – we have existed for close to a decade – and we are excited to continue and build on that work.”

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