Ever Hear of The Soil Health Institute? Or Soil Sciences? You Have Now.

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The efforts of the Institute are enhanced at a time when extreme climate events are driving conversation of conservation to enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement.

By Judd Spicer, Senior Writer, California Business Journal

Dr. Cristine Morgan has never shied from digging for dirt. In fact, she revels in it.

As the Chief Scientific Officer at the Soil Health Institute (SHI), Morgan’s work with the North Carolina-based non-profit has seen a merge, and a growth, of social sciences and soil sciences.

The coalesced efforts have resulted in soil health knowledge, economics and best practices not simply gathered – but better organized and shared with colleagues, partners and farmers across the country.

For Morgan, a longtime, former tenured professor of Soil Sciences at Texas A&M University, the call to join the Soil Health Institute in late 2019 was pre-dated by the seeds of outreach opportunity.

“I got involved in leading a concept called ‘Global Soil Security,’ and in 2014, I hosted the first Global Soil Security Conference, held at College Station, Texas A&M University,” Morgan recalls. “And we had around 40 different institutions and 12 countries represented.  In that, I realized that while soil science is amazing, the ability to break out of our silo had not matured much.”

Enhancing the reach of soil health communication turned Morgan’s career in a new direction.

“At the time, my focus was on soil hydrology, but, after the conference, I became very passionate about all aspects of soil stewardship and science,” she continues.  “I submitted a proposal in partnership with an economist and a sociologist, and along with a handful of graduate students, we began working on a survey of farmers in an area in Texas, trying to understand barriers to adoption of soil management practices.  We wanted to understand the needs of farmers when they are deciding whether to adopt management practices that also benefit the environment.”

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Missioned to enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement, SHI, founded in its present iteration in 2016, provided Morgan the chance to not only assemble soil health knowledge on a greater scale, but also to extend messaging of information.

“When the position opened up at the Soil Health Institute, I saw an opportunity to take this assembled wealth of knowledge in soil sciences and get it out to the world,” Morgan says. “This job is a unique opportunity to try and merge the social science with my own abilities with highly-technical soil information.”

In her post — surrounded by like-minded experts across the fields of academia, agriculture, climate and economics – Morgan has been enabled to enact real-time change efforts through SHI’s wide lens of training, research, education and hands-on projects.


“It’s also about monitoring the impact of change, so we can communicate that with the people who manage soils on a farm and also everybody else who lives off of our natural resources. We’re all impacted by positive improvements in soil health. We’re trying to bring this information to light, and enable change-makers to monitor and credibly-measure their change.” — Dr. Cristine Morgan


Exampling the efforts is SHI’s Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton project, an eight-part webinar series for farmers, running through March. “This is a big idea, and it’s about getting the information out there,” Morgan enthuses. “Just going to somebody with a bunch of information and suggesting a change is a lot different than the work of continuous engagement – that’s what this program is focused on. Adoption of new management practices is hard, and it takes work, learning, ingenuity and flexibility to make changes on the farm.

Farming, akin to politics, is much about locality. As such, the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton project is provincial in context, with farmer mentors — and the economics therein — being showcased to other farmers across the country, including spotlights on Texas, California, Arkansas, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Mississippi.

“It’s about what success looks like locally; soils, climates and cropping systems are local combinations,” Morgan explains. “We’re trying to highlight what success looks like in individual locations. Provincialism is very important; if you look at a soils map of the country, you’ll see that soils vary greatly across and between states, as do cropping systems and the climate.”

The efforts of SHI come, of course, at a time when extreme climate events are enhancing conversations around conservation. An increased onus on domestic natural resources, from soil to sky, has Morgan witnessing an upshift in the tenor of sustainability and regenerative agriculture.

“Combining the pandemic with the fires, the freezing temperatures in places likes Texas, the wind storms in the Midwest – all of these things are reminding us of the urgency of paying attention to our environment,” Morgan says. “I feel like the tone of urgency is changing.”

Per the ongoing times of virus, Morgan has seen her outreach turn virtual.

“The first year of the program, it was very hands-on, moving around to different states and farms,” she says. “I loved doing these projects in-person, and, of course, seeing these people and these locations in-person, it’s all so tangible. There’s nothing like seeing these landscapes, farms, and their stewards in-person.

Any yet, the digital shift may also come with long-term benefits.

“We definitely want to get back in person, but I think that, during COVID, we’ve also learned the importance of having virtual tools and materials,” she adds. “There’s definitely been an uptick in interest. For instance, we had a set of certified crop advisor training webinars, and we broke records in online registration and attendance.”

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Akin to the cache of environmental issues becoming more pronounced amid the pandemic’s push to more closely review how lifestyles effect personal wellness and the world beyond, a closer national focus on soil health is rising to the surface.


“We take soil for granted: we walk on it, drive on it, build on it, but we also grow our food on it. What makes us so lucky as a country is that we have an amazing soil resource. Being able to take for granted this resource is a luxury that not all global citizens have. And yet, that can occur to a fault: it’s what we benefit from, but also what we suffer from, because we can abuse our soils  and not realize consequences until it’s a problem.” — Dr. Cristine Morgan


Uniting the soil study and farming communities is finding Morgan deeper in the dirt. And by exploring education and solutions in-tandem, that’s exactly where she wants to be.

“It feels good to be working together in this community to get the job done. I think that soil health is a job that can be done,” she concludes. “It feels like a lower lift than trying to solve climate change, but improving soil health is also such an important component of addressing climate change, water quality, and other environmental challenges. I think we can have success here. And that success will feel good and be good for everybody.”

Copyright © 2021 California Business Journal. All Rights Reserved.

This article was edited and published by Rick Weinberg, California Business Journal’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief. Click here for Rick Weinberg’s biography.

TO READ THE MAGAZINE VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE, CLICK HERE.

How Does Soil Health Increase Resilience to Drought and Extreme Rainfall?

Extreme weather events, such as extended drought and heavy precipitation, are out of landowners’ and growers’ control; but through effective soil health management systems they can better manage how they prepare for and react to these circumstances.

Healthy soil allows more water to infiltrate and retains more moisture, enabling it to effectively absorb extreme rainfall as well as support crops during droughts. Adopting soil health systems before extreme events hit can save farmers significant time and money in the long run and preserve the vitality of their soils for many years to come.

Employing soil health systems by using practices such as no-till and cover crops, can help stabilize yields, improve agricultural productivity, and build resiliency through increased soil organic carbon content and soil water storage. These practices also benefit the environment, reducing nutrients lost through run-off, replenishing aquifers, and also acting as a natural filter for our waterways.

How exactly does soil retain water?

All soils have different amounts of sand, silt, and clay partilces and this affects water infiltration and soil water storage. While the proportion of these particles can’t be changed, farmers can increase the soil organic carbon in any soil and this optimizes their fields’ performance.

Soil organic carbon has two important functions for drought resilience: it can store up to 10 times its weight in water, and it is used as a source of food for soil microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and other soil life) that build soil structure. This also creates habitat for the macrofauna, like earthworms, that make larger soil pores for water to drain so that it doesn’t pond on the surface and run-off, causing erosion and harming aquatic life. These two functions of soil organic carbon, water storage and drainage, work together to provide water to plants when they need it, while also allowing soils to drain so they don’t get waterlogged or erode.

What can farmers do to increase soil moisture levels?

Implementing soil health systems helps manage water, nutrients, and beneficial organisms in the soil year-round, helping  farms be prepared and resilient during unexpected events such as drought and extreme rainfall. The principles of soil health management (the foundation for regenerative agriculture)can be explored in further detail here.

Continuous living cover

When compared to healthy soils, bare soils are less absorbent and often compacted. The amount of run-off, nutrient loss, and soil erosion are significantly higher. In contrast, year-round cover provides more protection and shade, reducing evaporation loss. As a result, fields that have cover crops require less supplemental irrigation and can rely on stored soil water.

Studies have also shown that deep-rooted crops and perennials improved infiltration and the absorption of water in heavy rainstorms.

Lastly, roots of plants and plant residue on the soil surface aid in returning organic carbon to the soil and providing energy for soil microorganisms to carry out the vital functions that these creatures provide.

Implementing no-till systems

Tillage destroys soil structure, breaking down soil aggregates, and the effects can be felt for a number of growing seasons. When these break down, so do the pores between them, and the soil compacts and crusts further. As a result, the soil is less porous, leading to increased run-off and downstream flooding, further decreasing the amount of water stored in the soil for future times of need.

Considering a management change?

Adopting new management practices can bring challenges. Some farmers report it took them 2-3 years to learn how to use their new practices. Most start out small and then adopt more and more gradually over time. However, one thing is for sure - our environment is already changing. With the increasing severity and frequency of drought, heavy rain, elevated temperatures, market fluctuations, and many other factors outside of a farmer’s control, it makes sense to adjust management practices to help meet those challenges.

Managing to improve soil health brings many benefits, including drought resilience, increased nutrient availability, reduced input costs, and recent research also shows increased farm income. More and more resources are becoming available to help farmers transition to a soil health management system. Good places to start include your local cooperative extension office, NRCS, conservation district, and especially visiting with another local farmer who has already transitioned to a soil health management system. The Soil Health Institute will assist in any way we can.

Cotton Industry Leaders Share the Importance of Soil Health and Regenerative Agriculture During Virtual Showcase

Research Triangle Park, NC, March 10, 2021 – The Soil Health Institute (SHI), the non-profit charged with safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soils, invites you to join Mr. Greg Bohrer, Director of Natural Capital at Walmart Foundation; Dr. Jesse Daystar, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at Cotton, Inc.; and Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Soil Health Institute, at the virtually held Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Farmer Showcase, at 2 p.m. (EST) on March 23, 2021.

In this eighth and final episode of the event, “Why Soil Health is Important to the Future of U.S. Cotton: Spotlight on Regenerative Ag Leaders,” the panel will discuss the importance of soil health and regenerative agriculture to the U.S. cotton industry’s long-term viability. They will tackle pressing industry issues, including consumers’ increased interest in sustainably grown food and fiber, the “Cotton Trust Protocol,” and the science supporting soil health principles.

“Cotton Incorporated is dedicated to conducting research and promoting activities to increase the demand for and profitability of cotton,” said Dr. Daystar. “We’re fortunate to have so many partners in the industry working on this critical sustainability issue and empowering farmers to adopt soil health systems.”

“The science is clear,” noted Dr. Honeycutt. “Regenerative ag practices help to store more carbon in soils, which not only benefits a cotton farmer’s bottom line, but also improves water quality and helps fight climate change. The Soil Health Institute is committed to providing the latest scientific research, measurements, educational resources, and economic information that will help more cotton farmers adopt these highly beneficial soil health systems.”

The Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Farmer Showcase is a series of eight online discussions with U.S. cotton farmers and soil health experts that started livestreaming on February 2, 2021, and is presented every Tuesday at 2 p.m. (EST) through March 23, 2021. Cotton producers, consultants, and other interested parties may register one time to attend all eight episodes. Registration is free but required to participate. Following the conclusion of the series, all showcase episodes will be available on the Soil Health Institute’s YouTube.

To register for the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Farmer Showcase and learn more about other episodes, visit https://soilhealthinstitute.org/soil-health-training/farmer-showcase/.

This event is part of the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton project, which provides farmer-focused education and training delivered by Soil Health Institute 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 of that adoption.

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, visit https://soilhealthinstitute.org/soil-health-training/.

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About the Soil Health Institute

The Soil Health Institute (www.soilhealthinstitute.org) is a non-profit whose mission is to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement. The Institute works with its many stakeholders to identify gaps in research and adoption; develop strategies, networks, and funding to address those gaps; and ensure beneficial impact of those investments to agriculture, the environment, and society.

 About Wrangler®

Wrangler® apparel is available nationwide in mass market retailers, specialty stores, including work apparel chains, farm & fleet, and western stores, as well as through online and catalog retailers. To find a retailer or for more information on the Wrangler family of products, visit Wrangler.com or call 888.784.8571.

About VF Corporation

VF Corporation outfits consumers around the world with its diverse portfolio of iconic lifestyle brands, including Vans®, The North Face®Timberland®, Wrangler® and Lee®. Founded in 1899, VF is one of the world’s largest apparel, footwear and accessories companies with socially and environmentally responsible operations spanning numerous geographies, product categories and distribution channels. VF is committed to delivering innovative products to consumers and creating long-term value for its customers and shareholders. For more information, visit www.vfc.com.

About Philanthropy at Walmart
Walmart.org represents the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. By leaning in where the business has unique strengths, Walmart.org works to tackle key social issues and collaborate with others to spark long-lasting systemic change. Walmart has stores in 27 countries, employs more than 2 million associates and does business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. Walmart.org is helping people live better by supporting programs that work to accelerate upward job mobility for frontline workers, address hunger and make healthier, more sustainably grown food a reality, and build strong communities where Walmart operates. To learn more, visit www.walmart.org or connect on Twitter @Walmartorg.

Economics of Soil Health Evaluated on 100 Farms by the Soil Health Institute and Cargill

Soil health systems increased net income for 85% of farmers growing corn and 88% growing soybean

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, Mar. 9, 2021 – Improving soil health can help farmers build drought resilience, increase nutrient availability, suppress diseases, reduce erosion and nutrient losses, and increase economic benefits according to recent Soil Health Institute research. “In addition to benefiting farmers and their land, many soil health management systems also benefit the broader environment by storing soil carbon, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving water quality,” says Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, President and CEO, Soil Health Institute (SHI). “However, investing in soil health is also a business decision, and information regarding the economic benefits of adopting soil health practices was limited until the Institute’s recent evaluation.”

To address this information gap, Cargill and SHI partnered to assess the economics of soil health management systems and provide farmers with the economic information they need when deciding whether to adopt regenerative soil health systems.

SHI researchers interviewed 100 farmers across nine states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Tennessee) who adopted soil health systems to acquire production information such as tillage practices, nutrient management, pest management, yield changes, and others. Dr. Archie Flanders, SHI Agricultural Economist, then evaluated the on-farm economics using partial budget analysis. A detailed description of the partial budget methodology used can be found on the SHI website: https://soilhealthinstitute.org/economics/. In this approach, the costs and benefits of a soil health system are compared before and after adoption of that system.

KEY FINDINGS:

From the data collection and analysis across all 100 farms, SHI found that soil health management systems:

    1. Increased net income for 85% of farmers growing corn and 88% of farmers growing soybean,
    2. Reduced the average cost to grow corn by $24/acre and soybean by $17/acre, and
    3. Increased net farm income by an average of $52/acre for corn and $45/acre for soybean.

“In addition, 97% of the farmers we interviewed reported their soil health management system increased crop resilience to extreme weather,” said Dr. John Shanahan, Project Manager for the study.

“There has been growing awareness and interest among farmers in soil health. Increasingly, they are looking for a more robust picture of the long-term benefits soil health management systems can provide,” said Ryan Sirolli, Global Row Crop Sustainability Director at Cargill. “We’re encouraged by the work the Soil Health Institute has done to provide additional quantitative evidence to demonstrate the economic benefits of adopting soil health management systems. These results further our confidence that agriculture is how farmers can become more resilient and profitable while making a positive impact on the environment.”

“To get information into the hands of farmers that is most relevant to them, we are presenting results for each individual state using webinars and fact sheets,” said Dr. Honeycutt. “The webinars will cover the highlights and give farmers an opportunity to ask questions, while the fact sheets will provide a bit more detail for their particular state. We are inviting as many state-based, ag-related organizations as we can find and asking them to please forward the invitation to all farmers on their mailing list.”

The following schedule will be used for the state-by-state webinars that occur weekly from March 18 through May 13. Registration is free but required to participate. All who register will receive that state’s fact sheet.

 Iowa

Webinar scheduled for 3/18, 1 p.m. Central Time (CT)/2 p.m. Eastern Time (ET). Register here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Ncr9yx7pTzShHS3bt7UdnA

Nebraska

Webinar scheduled for 3/25, 1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET. Register here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_PdIECNp5SZyD4Zwwao7Mug

Tennessee

Webinar scheduled for 4/1, at 1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET. Register here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_vRljwTSbTyOliJ3unc_ndQ

Illinois

Webinar scheduled for 4/8, at 1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET. Register here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ZdRZImQIR6uKSMx2X2lK5A

Indiana

Webinar scheduled for 4/15, at 1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET. Register here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_nJGr_884RmKqLkiQdM0jfw

South Dakota

Webinar scheduled for 4/22, at 1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET. Register here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2hUHlnuBTYCwEQXLEZ2yzQ

Minnesota

Webinar scheduled for 4/29, at 1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET. Register here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_dK2yawGvQJCjn4BRpxJ_cg

 Ohio

Webinar scheduled for 5/6, at 1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET. Register here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_hUOxZ44NSoKJbq1k0lO2Ow

 Michigan

Webinar scheduled for 5/13, at 1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET. Register here:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ZAWeUa4TR7i8egq8bky5GQ

For further information, visit www.soilhealthinstitute.org.

 About the Soil Health Institute

The Soil Health Institute is a global non-profit with a mission to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement. We bring together leaders in soil health science and the industry to help farmers, ranchers, and landowners adopt soil health systems that build drought resilience, stabilize yields, and benefit their bottom line, all while benefiting the environment.

The Institute’s team of scientists, holding doctorates in various soil science and related disciplines, has developed highly effective soil health targets and standardized measurements to quantify progress at achieving regenerative and sustainable agricultural systems, and leads the cutting-edge fields of carbon sequestration and decoding the soil microbiome.

Healthy soils are the foundation for rejuvenating our land. Together, we can create a secure future for all, mitigate the effects of climate change, improve water quality, and help agriculture and organizations meet production and environmental goals at scale.

Visit soilhealthinstitute.org to learn more and follow us on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.

About Cargill

Cargill's 155,000 employees across 70 countries work relentlessly to achieve our purpose of nourishing the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way. Every day, we connect farmers with markets, customers with ingredients, and people and animals with the food they need to thrive.

 We combine 153 years of experience with new technologies and insights to serve as a trusted partner for food, agriculture, financial and industrial customers in more than 125 countries. Side-by-side, we are building a stronger, sustainable future for agriculture. For more information, visit Cargill.com and our News Center.

Soil Health Institute announces new agency of record, Rivers Agency, to further its mission

Morrisville, NC., March 4, 2021 – The Soil Health Institute (SHI), the global non-profit charged with safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soils, is collaborating with Rivers Agency for its marketing and communications programs. After a competitive search for an agency of record, SHI selected Rivers to help the organization expand its impact as a primary resource for soil health science and information.

“Our vision is a world where farmers and ranchers grow quality food, fiber and fuel using soil health systems that sustain farms and rural communities, promote a stable climate and environment, and improve human health and wellbeing,” said Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, CEO of the Soil Health Institute. “Our research and education programs help growers adopt best practices for regenerative agriculture that increase profitability, build drought resilience, sequester carbon, and improve water quality. We’re thrilled to have Rivers Agency as our strategic partner to elevate our thought leadership and impact.”

SHI and Rivers got to work immediately, holding in-depth discovery sessions with SHI leadership and board members. From those interviews, goals were established and a marketing plan for 2021 was created. The marketing work began with the announcement and promotion of two web-based series aimed at helping farmers make measurable improvements towards sustainable practices.

Through a corporate partnership, a large study was conducted to assess, demonstrate and communicate the economics of soil health management systems. More than 100 farms were studied across nine states, which produced findings specific to different climates, soil types and growing conditions. Results of the study are being provided in fact sheets and webinars on a state-by-state basis, and these sessions are being promoted through media outreach and social media.

As part of the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton project, conducted in partnership with a clothing brand and corporate foundations, SHI is presenting an eight-part series called the Cotton Farmer Showcase. Rivers designed email blasts and created social media posts to promote the webinars and drive registrations.

“We’ve done a lot of work to devise and implement a comprehensive strategy for advancing adoption of soil health systems,” said Sheldon Jones, chief operating officer, SHI. “Using the results of our team’s research and partnerships, we’ve seen countless growers adopt soil health systems that help them stay in business. It’s testimonials like these that make us passionate about getting the word out so more growers have the knowledge and resources they need to sustain their operations.”

A social media campaign and new tagline also were developed to reflect the importance of SHI’s work and mission: Enriching Soil, Enhancing Life.

“We need more growers, landowners, policymakers and consumers to understand how soil health affects every aspect of our lives—from water quality to our food supply,” said Lauren Rivers, founder and president of Rivers Agency. “With the new administration in Washington and its commitment to tackling climate change, we’re thrilled to help SHI seize this opportunity and lead the conversation about using soil health to combat the biggest challenge facing our environment — global warming.”

About the Soil Health Institute

The Soil Health Institute is a global non-profit with a mission to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement. We bring together leaders in soil health science and the industry to help farmers, ranchers and landowners adopt soil health systems that build drought resilience, stabilize yields and benefit their bottom line, all while benefiting the environment.

The Institute’s team of scientists, holding doctorates in various soil science and related disciplines, has developed highly effective soil health targets and standardized measurements to quantify progress at achieving regenerative and sustainable agricultural systems, and leads the cutting-edge fields of carbon sequestration and decoding the soil microbiome. 

Healthy soils are the foundation for rejuvenating our land. Together, we can create a secure future for all, mitigate the effects of climate change, and help agriculture and organizations meet production and environmental goals at scale. 

Visit soilhealthinstitute.org to learn more and follow us on LinkedInTwitter and Facebook.

About Rivers Agency

Rivers Agency is an advertising, branding, design, digital, social, PR and web development agency with locations in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Since 1993, our teams have been creating integrated campaigns, innovative marketing solutions and user-friendly web experiences for B2C and B2B clients on both a national and local scale.

We’re proud that our creative and web development work has earned accolades from the Addy Awards, Communicator Awards, MarCom Awards, Davey Awards, W3 Awards, and our agency is recognized as one of the largest advertising agencies by the Triangle Business Journal. But our true passion is working with clients and using our creativity to seize opportunities and conquer challenges so we can deliver results and exceed your expectations.

To see our work or learn more, visit riversagency.com or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, Twitter and Instagram.

For media inquiries, contact Rivers Agency:
publicrelations@riversagency.com

919-932-9985

Attendees of the Cotton Farmer Showcase Are Reaping Big Benefits

We’re half-way through the eight-part Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Farmer Showcase, featuring cotton producers and soil health specialists across the United States discussing the challenges and successes they have encountered on their journey to improve soil health. Attendees of these virtual webinars included cotton producers, consultants, and others in the field, and based on the feedback we’ve received, this program is off to a very strong start!

A consultant who participated in the webinar on Feb. 16 about soil health in Arkansas loved that the information was accessible and shared by real farmers: “The Zoom (session) of the Arkansas farmer and questions was fantastic! Best Zoom-type meeting ever. Finally hearing from the core of people who had put into practice academia’s proposals. These gentlemen — the farmers — were awesome!”

Across the other states, participants had similar sentiments. In Mississippi, for example, an attendee shared these comments: “This was excellent because we heard from a farmer how he implements soil health and makes it work. Sledge (a farmer in Como, Miss.) hit the nail on the head with the challenge being the ‘mindset.’ I really appreciate this interview that y’all gave. Thank you!”

From a participant in Texas, not only did he find value in the content, he wants more of it. “Including the farmers in this session was awesome. It is so great to hear from their perspective. Could we have sessions from other types of products, such as corn or cattle?”

Designed as a way to continue the Soil Health Institute’s ongoing programs of training and education during the pandemic, the Cotton Farmer Showcase features eight live-streamed sessions on the topic of enhancing and safeguarding the vitality and productivity of soils used in cotton farming. Each session is tailored to the specific needs of farmers in different cotton-producing states; eight states in all are being covered.

The program is produced in partnership with the Walmart Foundation, Wrangler® Jeans, and the VF Foundation as part of the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton project.

In the live-streamed sessions, participants hear directly from Soil Health Institute scientists, local soil health technical specialists, and farmer mentors who have implemented soil health management systems. The scientists and specialists provide an update on the latest research on the four “must-do” practices of soil health — no-till, strip-till, conservation crop rotation, cover crops, and nutrient and pest management — and local farmers experienced in using these practices share their perspective. Each session also includes a chance to submit questions to the experts.

In February, sessions were held for farmers in Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, and California.

In March, sessions will be held for farmers in Georgia, North Carolina/Virginia, and the Carolinas (North and South), and a final episode on March 23 will discuss why soil health is important to the future of U.S. cotton. Each episode takes place on Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Attendance for the first three live-streamed events totaled 384, with farmers accounting for nearly 30 percent of total participants. Replay views for the first three events also have been strong, with nearly 1,000 viewers so far accessing the recorded sessions.

“Soil health is one of the hottest topics in all of farming right now,” says David Lamm, project manager and trainer for the Soil Health Institute. “Today’s consumers want to know their food and fiber products are sustainably grown, and the cotton industry is listening. Consumers are also increasingly interested in regenerative agriculture, and soil health is the very foundation for regenerative agriculture.”

“Cotton farmers, manufacturers, and retailers alike are collaborating to deliver cotton in a way that increases soil organic carbon, as well as reduces greenhouse gas emissions, soil loss, and water use,” Lamm adds. “They are realizing the many environmental and economic benefits that can be gained from managing soils to improve their health.”

Based on the success of the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Farmer Showcase, the Soil Health Institute will be looking for more opportunities to bring this type of high-value programming to the field. Additional sessions focused on cotton are being considered, as well as sessions relating to other crops and locations.

For more information or to sign up for any of the remaining webinars, click here.