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Soil Health Institute Releases 5th Annual Meeting Videos

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) today released information-packed videos of speaker presentations from its 5th Annual Meeting.

Soil Health: The Foundation for Regenerative Agriculture was held July 30-31, 2020, as a virtual forum with 28 speakers advancing opportunities to address climate change, water quality, food production, biodiversity, and many other pressing issues by improving soil health. Presentations addressed the actionable potential of soil health, including preliminary suggestions on how the agricultural industry can measure soil function in the future and the role of farmers and ranchers in combating global climate change and its impacts. In addition, 26 researchers provided three-minute video research presentations and discussed their research with online attendees.

Soil health leaders discussed key drivers of soil health adoption. The keynote was provided by Jay Watson, Sourcing Sustainability Engagement Manager at General Mills, Inc., who leads General Mills, Inc.’s greenhouse gas reduction and regenerative agriculture commitments.

SHI evaluated more than 30 different indicators of soil health in order to provide the agricultural industry with a short list of the most effective measurements farmers and ranchers can use to improve soil health. Moreover, SHI scientists described projects to evaluate the profitability of soil health systems; a farmer-led soil health training program; and research on how soil health relates to water quality, carbon sequestration, and drought resilience.

During the meeting, soil health leaders discussed new provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill that have an impact on the U.S. soil health movement. Farmers reviewed soil health practices that provide a demonstrated return on investment. Finally, speakers looked towards the future, identifying benefits that may arise from better understanding the soil microbiome.

Videos of annual meeting presentations are available here.

Noble Research Institute’s 75th Anniversary

The Soil Health Institute congratulates the Noble Research Institute on its 75th anniversary. The need for such an organization to assist farmers and ranchers with regenerating their soils, building drought resilience, and managing lands sustainably is arguably even more urgent today than it was when first established in 1945. The Soil Health Institute is honored to be a partner on that journey, contributing to the vision of Lloyd Noble for advancing agriculture and land stewardship for current and future generations.

Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of Noble Research Institute and the beginning of a year-long celebration of agricultural producers, the land that provides for our collective well-being, and the organization’s future.

Since its founding in 1945, Noble Research Institute has supported farmers and ranchers through education, research and consultation as they steward the nation’s grazing lands and soil.

Founder and philanthropist Lloyd Noble created his organization as a resource to work beside individuals to rebuild the soil and provide lasting stability for an economy in the aftermath of the Dust Bowl.

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Ducks Unlimited Receives Grant for Prairie Pothole Region

BROOKINGS, S.D. (Ducks Unlimited) – The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced today Ducks Unlimited (DU) and partners have been awarded a $8.73 million NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) grant to develop a producer-focused program, named Scaling Soil Health in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR).

The program will offer farmers and ranchers technical and financial assistance, advanced training and mentorship to increase the adoption of soil health practices in the PPR of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

“This is a significant growth opportunity for DU’s conservation program to help more producers in the prairies access the education and financial support they need to adopt soil health practices,” DU Chief Conservation Officer Karen Waldrop said. “Along with our partners, we look forward to working with interested farmers and ranchers to help them improve soil quality and wildlife habitat on their lands and produce positive economic results as well.”

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New Digital Tool Provides Scientific Data and Curated Insights on Conservation Farming Practices

Our partners at TNC have developed a data visualization tool to convey the on-farm and environmental effects of conservation practices as documented in the literature.

Scientists from conservation and academic institutions have launched AgEvidence, a visualization dashboard of data from nearly 300 peer-reviewed research papers and curated expert insights derived from those studies. The research compiled in AgEvidence focuses on the environmental and agronomic impacts of cover crops, tillage management, pest management, and nutrient management practices used in growing corn and/or soybean crops in the Midwest.

AgEvidence was created by Lesley Atwood, Ph.D., and Stephen Wood, Ph.D., as part of the Managing Soil Carbon working group of the Science for Nature and People Partnership. SNAPP is a partnership of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Can Loans Tied To Soil Health Save Agriculture?

America’s soil health is in dire straits and a new investment fund, rePlant Capital, has been formed to help clove the crisis with capitalism by tying interest rates for farm loans to improvements in soil’s carbon and water storage as a way to save farmers from the disastrous impacts of climate change.

A third of the country’s topsoil has eroded in the past 50 years, part of a warning from the United Nations in 2015 that predicts soil degradation will be one of the central threats to human health in the coming decades. Farmers are seeking to regenerate soil after decades of misuse from chemical fertilizers and herbicides, but transitioning to less harsh farming practices is costly, and nature cannot solve the problem according to human timeline, requiring 500 years or more to create an inch of fresh topsoil under natural conditions.

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Five Projects Split $860,000 to Further Grow Natural Climate Solutions in U.S.

Through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, today The Nature Conservancy’s Natural Climate Solutions Accelerator program is announcing the award of $860,000 to be split among five projects designed to help scale climate change mitigation by capturing and storing carbon on natural and working lands in the U.S.  The five recipients are part of the third round of grantees for the Accelerator program, which has awarded over $2.5 million dollars to fifteen climate projects around the country.

The 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 1.5 degrees Celsius Report provided additional urgent wake-up calls on the need for ambitious and innovative climate action to achieve a low carbon economy and accelerate removal of greenhouse gases already emitted into the atmosphere.

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General Mills Partnership with Gunsmoke Farms

General Mills today announced Gunsmoke Farms has received organic certification by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organics Program. Gunsmoke, a 34,000-acre farm outside of Pierre, South Dakota, had been managed conventionally for more than three decades before its transition to organic over the last three years using regenerative agriculture practices. The combination of cover crops, a diverse crop rotation, keeping a living root in the ground year round and minimizing tillage were instrumental in restoring the land to a holistic farming system that now grows spring wheat, winter wheat, alfalfa, oats, peas and Kernza.

“General Mills has been on our soil health journey since 2016 and working with Gunsmoke Farms solidified our belief that regenerative agriculture can be a transformative lever for farmers to be a part of the climate solution,” said Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer for General Mills. “This type of long-term, direct contracting is unprecedented for General Mills and the industry. If we truly aim to be a force for good, our role is to give farmers the tools to be more resilient – both environmentally and financially.”

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Wrangler Pushes for a More Circular Cotton Supply Chain

As the fashion industry, and fast fashion companies in particular, come increasingly under scrutiny, many retailers and clothing manufacturers are looking at their sourcing and supply chains to ensure sustainability from the first mile to the customer purchase. Wrangler is one such retailer; the brand recently announced a global call to action for cotton farmers who can demonstrate and document soil health and biodiversity improvements to apply in order to partner with it on the launch of a new jean.

This new Wrangler jean is a part of The Jeans Redesign, an initiative spearheaded by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF). This initiative established guidelines on the minimum requirements for durability, material health, recyclability, and traceability of denim jeans, with over 40 denim experts providing insight. To date, over 50 notable brands, manufacturers, and fabric mills have signed on to this initiative and are using these guidelines to produce new jeans for purchase this fall.

In addition to joining up with The Jeans Redesign, Wrangler has added a new dimension of circularity to its stated commitment to source 100 percent sustainably grown cotton by 2025. The brand will do so by joining the EMF’s Make Fashion Circular Initiative, which exists to drive collaboration between apparel industry leaders to ensure that clothes are made from safe, renewable materials, that new business models increase their use, and that old clothes are turned into new.

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Cargill to Advance Regenerative Agriculture Practices Across 10 million Acres by 2030

Cargill has announced it is supporting farmer-led efforts to adopt regenerative agriculture practices and systems across 10 million acres of North American farmland over the next 10 years.

The initiative will focus primarily on row-crop rotations that include corn, wheat, canola, soybeans, and other staple crops.

Cargill expects these regenerative agriculture practices to benefit the long-term profitability and resiliency of farmers while simultaneously advancing the company’s progress against its science-based climate commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its global supply chains by 30% per ton of product by 2030. The initiative will also contribute to Cargill’s efforts to protect and enhance water resources.

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Improved tool can help Midwest farmers with cover crop decisions

Cover crops have been shown to improve water and soil quality, reduce erosion and capture nutrients. Choosing the right cover crop, however, can be difficult.

The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) —made up of representatives from 12 Midwest states and universities, including Purdue, the province of Ontario and other agricultural stakeholders — is rolling out an improved cover crop selection tool that will help farmers make those decisions. Users select their state/province and county and then select the goals they have for cover crops — erosion control, nitrogen scavenger, fighting weeds and providing forage, etc. They also can provide information about the cash crops they are planting and drainage data for their fields. The tool offers the best cover crop options for the specified conditions. Clicking on the cover crops brings up data sheets that offer more information about each crop, seeding rates and more.

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