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.
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.