Figure 1. The North Central Region Water Network supports regional soil health capacity building through its Impact 2020 initiative. The Network is made up of a 12-state collaboration between Extension water resource professionals and university, federal, state, NGO and industry partners.
Empower Educators to Improve Water Quality by Adoption of Soil Health Practices
Earlier this month, I travelled to Indianapolis, IN to attend a meeting sponsored by the North Central Region Soil Health Nexus. The meeting was a kickoff to discuss a new grant the Nexus was recently awarded entitled "Empower Educators to Improve Water Quality by Adoption of Soil Health Practices.” The NCR Soil Health Nexus was initiated in 2016 with seed funding from the North Central Region Water Network as part of their Impact 2020 initiative. Representatives from 12 land-grant universities, the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program, the InterTribal Ag Council, the National Soil Health Partnership, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and others have combined to address the challenges of increasing extension field professional’s ability to educate and advise farmers on soil health topics.
- Identify and characterize the obstacles and challenges encountered by decision makers (e.g. farmers) and influencers (e.g. retail agronomists) to adopting practices for improving water quality and soil health and assess the resource needs of educators to deliver water and soil health training and demonstrations.
- Develop soil health educational resources, assemble and curate a web-based toolbox of resources targeting the needs of extension educators/agents for engaging farmers in soil health education, and develop educational and on-farm research methods that would document the links between soil health and water quality.
- Develop the capacity to deliver soil health knowledge through implementation of regional in-service and professional development training.
- Facilitated implementation of on-farm research/demonstration as a model for engaging farmers in soil health education.
- Facilitated implementation of on-farm research/demonstration on soil health and manure that focuses on improvement and protection of water resources.
Regional Soil Health Team
The collective efforts of the SD No-Till Association, SDSU Ag Experiment Station, SD Soil Health Coalition, SD Grassland Coalition, SD NRCS, SDSU Extension, and others has cast South Dakota into a leadership role with regard to soil health education. Collaborating with regional land-grant university researchers, extension educators, and others will allow South Dakota to share our success stories while learning from others at the same time. A strong regional soil health team will strengthen the capacity for educators to share the most up-to-date research and outreach strategies for soil health improvement and increase the adoption of soil health practices.
For more information, visit the North Central Region Soil Health Nexus or North Central Region Water Network websites. While visiting the Soil Health Nexus webpage, stay connected with the latest information by signing up for the Soil Health Nexus newsletter or reviewing the Soil Health Nexus Blog. If you would like to submit a blog article regarding your soil health discoveries and experiences, contact Leslie Johnson. Your SDSU Extension contacts for the Soil Health Nexus project are Ruth Beck, Anthony Bly and David Kringen.