Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton
The Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton project seeks to expand adoption of soil health management systems on producers’ farms through farmer-focused education and training events delivered by Soil Health Institute scientists, partnering soil health technical specialists and farmer mentors producing cotton using soil health promoting practices. The project aims to improve soil health and expand sustainable cotton production. Additionally, the project seeks to quantify, expand, and verify the productivity and environmental benefits of the soil health management practices used by cotton producers.
Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton partners with farmer mentors and soil health technical specialists who provide producer guidance and technical assistance throughout the term of the project. Through these partnerships, the project will create and expand farmer mentor networks to foster peer-to-peer exchange of ideas and solutions for managing soil health. The project is active in Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Mississippi and Texas.
Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Farm Field Days Set for July, August 2019
There are four Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Field Days in 2019. For information on a field day near you, click below:
If you are interested in participating in the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton - Soil Health Training program, please contact us here.
Meet the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Partners
Our Farmer Mentors provide leadership and share their personal experience on how farmers can successfully implement a soil health management system with cotton production on their farms. Each farmer mentor has incorporated cover cropping and no-till and/or strip-till practices, along with nutrient and pest management, into a systems approach.
Soil Health Specialist
Our Soil Health Specialists are local technical experts that farmers can contact to answer questions related to implementing a soil health management system (SHMS). Their familiarity with regional soils, climate, and the soil health planning principles makes them a valuable asset to assess the health of soils on your farm and to help design a system to improve soil functions.
Dillon, South Carolina
Sonny Price has been raising cotton near Dillion, South Carolina, for the past 40 years. Today he farms 6,500 acres of corn, wheat, cotton and soybeans. Sonny started to experiment with a no-till drill while looking for an alternative way to plant double crop soybeans after wheat. This success led him to use strip till to plant his cotton for several years. Sonny uses no-till planting on all his crops and now plants a variety of cover crops.
Scotland Neck, North Carolina
Zeb Winslow is a 5th generation farmer from Scotland Neck, North Carolina, who started his soil health journey by taking lessons from his dad when he began growing cotton using a strip till system after working with the Fishing Creek Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in the late 1990’s. This system incorporated a cereal grain cover crop, which was terminated early to keep it from growing too tall. Today on his 800-acre farm, Zeb uses a diverse rotation that incorporates corn, soybeans (full season and double crop), wheat, and cotton along with no-till planting and diverse cover crop mixes.
Burton Heatwole of Sunshine Place Farm near Millen, Georgia, learned about soil health as a child by watching his father plant cotton into a heavy cereal rye cover crop with a strip-till planter. While the purpose of the cover crop was primarily forage for the family dairy, the benefits to the cotton crop were obvious. By 2016, Burton started planting cotton again to help diversify his rotation that included peanuts. Today, he rotates between corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and peanuts, and plants everything with a strip-till planter. In addition, Burton plants diverse cover crop mixes between all crops. He feels this system helps him take better care of his soils so that they can take care of him.
Soil Health Specialist
Matt Fryer is a soil health specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. Prior to this role, Matt worked as a county extension agent with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. Matt earned his bachelor’s degree from Arkansas State University in agricultural business and a master’s from the University of Arkansas in soil fertility.
Soil Health Specialist
Buz is a research associate professor in the Environmental Health Sciences Department at the University of South Carolina (USC) Arnold School of Public Health. Buz is passionate about doing research on working farmland and collaborating directly with farmers on soil health research and projects. He is interested in how farmers can leverage regenerative farming systems while paying attention to biology to improve per acre income, mainly through savings in fertilizer. His work has moved him into the dual roles of research in, and telling the story of, regenerative farming in video and social media format. Buz’s guiding philosophy is his target audience is first and foremost the farmer.
Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Webinar Series
The Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton webinar series is an online version of presentations offered to cotton producers at in-person events. The series features soil health scientists and technical specialists who provide foundational training to help viewers better understand soil health and function. The series covers topics such as soil health basics, linking soil biology to soil health, soil health planning principles, ecological pest and nutrient management, cover crop management, and planning a soil health management system.
Watch the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton webinar series here:
Episode 1: Soil Health Basics with David Lamm, Project Manager, Soil Health Institute
Episode 2: Linking Soil Biology to Soil Health with Dr. Jennifer Moore-Kucera, Climate Initiative Director, American Farmland Trust
Episode 3: Soil Health Planning Principles with Willie Durham, Soil Health Specialist, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service
Episode 4: Ecological Nutrient Management with Dr. Buz Kloot, Associate Professor, University of South Carolina
Episode 5: Ecological Pest Management with Dr. Jason Schmidt, Assistant Professor and Schmidt Biocontrol Lab Director, University of Georgia
Episode 6: Cover Crop Management with Nathan Lowder, Soil Health Specialist, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service
Episode 7: Planning a Soil Health Management System with David Lamm, Project Manager, Soil Health Institute
Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Farmer Showcase
The Soil Health Institute presents a series of virtual meetings as part of its Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton project.
The goal of the project is to increase adoption of soil health management systems. The “Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Farmer Showcase” features 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. Each state’s speakers summarize how producers are making essential soil health practices like no-till and cover crops work under local soil and climate conditions.
Cotton & Covers
Farmers practicing soil health say the road to soil health is a journey and not a destination, as you are constantly learning and adjusting along the way. In this video series, “Cotton & Covers,” we follow the soil health journey of three cotton producers as they share their stories and experiences to improve the health and productivity of their farms.
Virtual Field Days Focus on Building Soil Health
Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton brings you a series of virtual soil health field days, covering topics such as cover crop seed selection as well as income comparisons between conventional and no-till production on a single farm.
Thanks to cotton producers Joe Whittenton (Arkansas), Adam Chappell (Arkansas) and Jason Carter (South Carolina) for their contributions, as well as soil health specialists at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service and Soil Health Labs at the University of South Carolina.
Participate in the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton virtual field days here:
BUILDING SOIL HEALTH – THE VIEW FROM ARKANSAS
Building Soil Health in Arkansas
Cotton Soil – Conventional and No-Till
Introducing the Furrow Runner Plow
Cover Crop Seed Selection
Cover Crop Seed Mixes
Wide Row Cotton
BUILDING SOIL HEALTH – THE VIEW FROM SOUTH CAROLINA
Soil Health in Richland County (South Carolina)
Measuring Bulk Density
Measuring Soil Temperature
Principles of Regenerative Agriculture
Warm Season Cover Crop Mixes
Warm Season Cover Crop Growth
Wrapping Up in Richland County
How Healthy are your Soils?
Most farmers walk their fields to see how their crop is growing. By carrying a spade and following the simple guides below, farmers can get an idea of how healthy their soils are at different times of the year. The following indicators, available for download below, will tell farmers whether they are on the right path towards soil health.