A plethora of research into soil health indicates that agricultural practices that improve soil
health can increase resilience to a variety of biotic and abiotic stressors, decrease reliance on
synthetic inputs, and improve long-term economic sustainability. Promising practices which have
long been studied include: keep it covered; do not disturb; increase diversity; add amendments,
cover cropping, and residues; and re-integrate crops and livestock. However, producer adoption
remains a challenge – not because they don’t want to improve soil health, but because of real
economic, logistical, and other barriers. Additionally, producers need to see examples from
others and better understand the economic implications of specific practices under their
conditions before they are willing to adopt them.
Funding for this project will bring agricultural professionals and key producers from
Washington, Oregon, and Idaho together, with an overarching goal to give those who are
providing information to farmers a tool box to support adoption of soil health practices.
Attendees at the summit will include researchers to provide the most recent soil health insights
and train professionals to use existing decision support tools. Producers will present at the
summit, to share important on-the-ground insights. Attendees will engage in demonstrations, and
dialog on the challenges, opportunities, and paths towards increased adoption of soil health
practices. Information gathered during facilitated discussions will be synthesized and given to
leadership to support and coordinate broader state-level efforts. Additionally, a toolbox will be
developed and made available to attendees which will provide links and instructions on focused
Our proposal builds on an existing collaborative regional process that indicated that moving
forward soil health issues is a priority. Prior to the summit, a survey will provide additional
insight on attitudes toward soil health research, services, and policies. This will inform facilitated
conversations for the summit.
Our objectives are to:
• Improve awareness of existing, new, and evolving regional soil health practices and
projects to foster learning relating to innovative strategies that can be promoted and
utilized by agriculture professionals.
• Provide hands-on training on soil health practices, and familiarity with tools that can
be used to support producer decision making related to soil health.
• Improve understanding of the practical barriers to improving soil health and resources
and opportunities for moving past those barriers.
• Create a forum for state leaders to improve consensus about needs, priorities, and
funding opportunities for collaborative regional efforts for the next five years around
the 2019 Soil Health Workshop will be a three-day regional event which will be comprised of the following components: training sessions, workshops & demonstrations, farm tour, and facilitated discussions. Within these approaches we will do the following:
Training Sessions—Training will be provided to attendees via keynote speaker, producer panel, and poster session that highlight successful and innovative soil health practices around the region. The objective of these sessions will be to inspire, ground discussions in producers’ on-the-ground the reality, and provide examples throughout the summit. Focus will be on projects and practices that provide professionals with key understanding of how to aid producers in adoption of soil health practices while upholding economic, environment, and social aspects of sustainability.
Workshops – Focused sessions will provide participants with knowledge about the carbon and nitrogen cycle, , compaction, organic matter, climate tools, participatory soil health, soil biology, and cover crops. Additionally, a ‘Tools Cafe’ will provide hands on experience with hands-on experience that can be utilized in their work, such as: field day demonstration tools (i.e. slaking test, rain on soil cover, etc), software and tools training and demonstration, and economic tools for management (i.e. University of Idaho Enterprise Budget for Soil Health).
Farm Tour & Demonstrations – An offsite tour of the Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center in Pendleton Oregon, where participants can see firsthand the results of long-term research on soil and crop management that were started as long ago as 1931. Participants will also learn current standardized methods for soil sampling, soil health assessment in the field as well as using Web Soil Survey, talking with producers, and reading a soil pit.
Facilitated discussions – Facilitated discussions will provide opportunity to engage in high level brainstorming and discussion. These sessions will help assess gaps and needs for research, extension, and technical service providers. This assessment will be used to build a coordinated state and regional effort related to soil health. During these session facilitators will help attendees discuss and provide an assessment of existing and needed resources, funding opportunities moving forward, and how each state can participate. Through these sessions succinct regional and industry priorities will be provided to agency, producer, and educational leadership across all states.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Educate 180 Ag professionals/farmers and leaders in Oregon, Washington and Idaho
This project will engage professionals across public and private sectors. Improve awareness of existing, new, and evolving regional soil health practices and projects to foster learning relating to innovative strategies that can be promoted and utilized by agriculture professionals.
Increase the knowledge and awareness of participants on soil health, available resources, and specific existing and upcoming regional efforts;
Provide a soil health toolbox of resources, templates, and contacts within the region in the form of a conference resource manual that will empower participants to increase their ability to provide targeted soil health outreach to producers and other stakeholders.