Soil health is fast becoming one of the hottest trends in the food and farming industries. Federal legislators in the US are jumping on the soil health bandwagon; even consumers are gaining awareness of how dirt makes a difference in everything from nutritional content to water quality.
There are a number of agrifoodtech startups that are staking out their territory in the realm of soil health, like biocarbon producer Cool Planet, microbiome tester Trace Genomics [disclosure: a portfolio company of AFN‘s parent, AgFunder], and bioinformatics startup Biome Markers. The founders of software-focused fund Scaleworks also recently launched a new regenerative ag-focused VC fund called Soilworks.
Most people seem to agree that improving soil health is a worthwhile endeavor. But beyond the feel-good aspects of supporting the movement, one muddy question hangs in the balance: is there a business case for farmers to adopt soil health practices?
The Soil Health Institute (SHI), the non-profit charged with safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soils, will release Cotton & Covers, a Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton video series, August 20, 2020. The series follows three Southeastern cotton producers as they discuss their individual journeys to build profitable soil health management systems on their farms. Each producer is a mentor to other farmers in SHI’s soil health training program, working with other farmers to expand their knowledge of soil health systems and to overcome barriers to adoption.
New videos will be made available weekly through September, according to David Lamm, Project Manager of Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton. The series will be publicly available on SHI’s YouTube Channel and Soil Health Training webpage.
“These farmer mentors, who are working with cotton producers in their state to build soil health management systems on their farms, have fascinating stories to tell,” Lamm explains. “Their observations, as they reduced tillage and added multi-species cover crops, provide insight that will be useful to others who are either just starting the journey or are well on their way to improve the health of their soils.”
The series features Sonny Price from Dillon, South Carolina; Zeb Winslow from Scotland Neck, North Carolina; and Burton Heatwole from Millen, Georgia. The cotton producers discuss why they decided to explore soil health promoting practices and the benefits they’ve discovered as they experimented with reduced tillage, increased cover crop species diversity, and livestock grazing.
“Being able to take care of your soil, and let your soil take care of you…that’s the road we’re headed down,” explains Heatwole, who adopted a soil health management system to increase soil organic matter and water infiltration on his Georgia farm.
The video series is part of the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton project, which provides farmer-focused education and training events delivered by SHI scientists, partnering with local soil health technical specialists and farmer mentors who have implemented successful soil health management systems. The project aims to increase the adoption of soil health management systems among cotton producers while documenting environmental and economic benefits.
Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton is supported through the generosity of the Wrangler® brand, the VF Corporation Foundation and the Walmart Foundation. For more information about the project and access to the webinar series, visit https://soilhealthinstitute.org/soil-health-training/.
The Soil Health Institute (SHI), in partnership with the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) and the Walton Family Foundation, announced today the Assessing Soil Health webinar series. The series seeks to expand Certified Crop Advisers’ (CCA), Certified Professional Agronomists’ (CPAg) and Certified Professional Soil Scientists’ (CPSS) knowledge of soil health. All webinars in the series are free to all CCAs, CPAgs, CPSSs and Tri-Society members, and Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available.
The series begins July 21, 2020, with a webinar on Measures of Soil Water Cycling presented by Dr. Cristine Morgan, Chief Scientific Officer at SHI. Additional webinar topics include measuring carbon cycling, nitrogen cycling and the soil microbiome, as well as standard measurements for soil health and soil heath economics. The majority of webinars will be presented by SHI Project Scientists from the North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements (NAPESHM), a continental-scale analysis to recommend the most effective measurements to evaluate soil health.
“Certified Crop Advisers play an integral role in advancing the adoption of soil health management systems,” says Dr. Morgan. “These systems enable outcomes such as improved water quality, increased soil carbon storage, drought resilience, and nutrient cycling. This series aims to elevate knowledge and awareness of soil health management and measurement and to provide useful tools for understanding and enabling the adoption of soil health and regenerative agriculture practices.”
The Assessing Soil Health webinar series offers CEUs to CCA, CPAg, CPSS and other professionals certified through SSSA, the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and the Crop Science Society of America. Topics selected reflect feedback from a survey conducted by SHI and ASA to better understand the needs of farmer advisers and CCAs regarding current and desired soil health knowledge.
The series has been produced by SHI and SSSA. It is sponsored through the generosity of the Walton Family Foundation.
To register for the first webinar of the series, visit https://www.soils.org/education/online-courses/webinar-series-soil-health.
To learn more about the NAPESHM project, visit https://soilhealthinstitute.org/north-american-project-to-evaluate-soil-health-measurements/.
Across Cargill’s locations in 70 countries, the company and its employees are committed to positively impacting the communities where they live and work. This year, with a pandemic and natural disasters globally, Cargill intensified its focus on boosting economies, improving livelihoods and making a difference to individuals, families, farmers and small businesses around the world.
In the fiscal year 2020, Cargill provided $115 million in total charitable contributions, hosted trainings for 860,000 farmers in sustainable agricultural and business practices to improve their earnings potential and provided more than 39 million meals to global and local food bank partners.
“As the world faces extraordinary challenges – from climate change to food insecurity – delivering on Cargill’s purpose to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way is more critical than ever before,” said Michelle Grogg, vice president of corporate responsibility at Cargill. “We collaborate with strategic partners across the globe to bring this purpose to life by empowering farmers, protecting the planet and nourishing people and communities.”