Soil Health Partnership Opens Enrollment in Soil Health Network
The Soil Health Partnership is expanding a pilot project to give more farmers access to the soil health network – and just in time to celebrate World Soil Day, December 5.
The SHP is launching Phase 2 of its pilot Associate Program in 2019. It will therefore invite 75 farmers to enroll, allowing the Partnership to further its mission of using science and data to support farmers in adopting agricultural practices that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the farm.
Phase 2 of the Associate Program will help more farmers join the network, giving them a foundation to evaluate soil health as part of a comprehensive management strategy, says Shefali Mehta, executive director of the Soil Health Partnership.
Farmers who join the Associate Program during the pilot phase receive access to no-cost soil health sampling and results. The program will provide data insights and reports on how making a change, like growing cover crops, impacts their soil. There are 140 farms enrolled in the program in 14 states, including the 25 pilot sites from phase 1 of the Associate Program. It is the largest farmer-led soil health research project of its kind.
“I strongly believe sustainability has to apply to farm economics, as well as the environment, and we’re seeing that economic need become increasingly critical,” Mehta says.
After enrolling 25 farms in the pilot program in 2018, phase 2 will bring the number of associate sites to 100. The SHP plans a full-scale launch of the Associate Program for 2020, when even more farmers can join.
A less-intensive version of the SHP’s 115 Full Partner sites enrolled in the long-term data project, Associate Program farmers will commit to a two-year project enrollment. Yearly soil health testing will measure key metrics. Enrolled farmers will choose between the following three treatment options:
- Cover crop vs. no cover crop
- Tillage vs. less intrusive tillage, or no-till
- Nutrient management (comparison of different nutrient sources)
The program will also help SHP include more cropping systems and geographies, as well as strengthen the breadth and depth of data, Mehta adds.
Farmers interested in learning more can visit the Soil Health Partnership website.
An initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, the SHP is an innovative long-term research effort that aims to show U.S. farmers how sustainability through soil health can also lead to increased profitability.