As the Soil Health Partnership embarks on its third year, the organization has high hopes for network expansion and ground-breaking soil data results that will contribute to a sea change in farming. The partnership held its third annual Soil Health Summit in Indianapolis Jan. 21-22, hosting more than 140 attendees, including farmers, agriculture industry leaders, environmental groups and university representatives.
"It's very striking to me that the agricultural community is awakening to the positive impact soil health can have on the environment, crop yields and farm economics," said Nick Goeser, SHP director. "Our annual Soil Health Summit brings progressive leaders together to learn about the research, innovations and technology taking place in the realm of soil health."
The partnership is a data-driven initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, with support from Monsanto and the Walton Family Foundation, as well as technical support from The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense Fund.
Demonstration farmers in the program collect data with the help of field managers and their agronomists in practices like cover crops, nutrient management and conservation tillage. The organization hopes to increase the number of demonstration farms enrolled to 60 this year.
"Economics are key to changing practices on the farm - we've heard that again and again," Goeser said at the summit. "Although early in our data collection process, we're in this for the long haul. We continue to improve data collection and our analytics process. We are also working on how we will put that research in your hands. Our research means nothing if it isn't published to be used by our farmers and beyond."
The first day of the summit featured presentations on cover crop economics, precision land management, and panel discussions from farmers and industry collaborators. On the second day, participants shared thoughts on the data collection, further collaboration opportunities and communication within the partnership and with those interested in the results.
"These farmers are pioneers and innovators," said NCGA CEO Chris Novak during the summit's closing address. "They are taking risks to build data that prove soil health improvements mean economic benefits from better yields, and environmental risk mitigation. We thank them for their leadership."
The Soil Health Partnership brings together diverse partner organizations including commodity groups, federal agencies, universities and environmental groups to work toward the common goal of improving soil health. Over a five-year period, the SHP will identify, test and measure farm management practices that improve soil health and benefit farmers. We believe the results of this farmer-led project will provide a platform for sharing peer-to-peer information, and lend resources to benefit agricultural sustainability and profitability. An initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, we provide the spark for greater understanding and implementation of agricultural best practices to protect resources for future generations. For more, visit soilhealthpartnership.org.