The Citizen Science Soil Health Project

Progress report for FW19-341

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2019: $24,800.00
Projected End Date: 01/01/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G215-19-W7501
Grant Recipient: Your Neighborhood Christmas Tree Farm
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Elizabeth Black
Your Neighborhood Christmas Tree Farm
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Project Information


The Citizen Science Soil Health Project: Does providing annual soil health testing, education and team-building lead to broader adoption of practices which improve soil health? Soil health tests and biological assessments of soil function are not readily adopted by Colorado Front Range growers to change management.  Front Range growers are familiar with the concept of “soil health”, but few have implemented soil health practices due to challenging agricultural conditions: a short growing season, high altitude, lack of late season or firm water, poor/alkaline/depleted native soils (1), and high weed pressure. Our Front Range conundrum is that while improving soil health will mitigate many of these challenges, these same challenges make improving soil health difficult to accomplish. The Citizen Science Soil Health Project is a grower-driven project which will use the collective knowledge of the diverse participating growers to apply local solutions to our soil health implementation conundrum.  The project will provide soil health tests and annual soil health scores for each participating grower, using the Haney/Phospho-Lipid Fatty Acid (PLFA) soil tests from Ward Labs.  During the first 3 years of our project, which are encompassed within this grant request, and continuing for 7 more years after that, participating growers will try to improve their soil health scores through management actions which align with their operation.  Annual questionnaires, meetings and classes will encourage team-building, collaboration and information sharing among participating growers.  Growers will make key project decisions such as their own soil management choices, timing and location of their own soil testing, the project’s class content, outreach and final report format.  Growers will be encouraged to act like scientists: decide what questions they want their soil tests to answer, document what they are doing, understand what their test results mean, change their management based on test results, and track their data to assess management decisions.

Project Objectives:
  1. Increase knowledge about soil health and use of soil health tests by Front Range growers.
    • By 12/2020, our project’s number of participating growers will increase from 15 to 30.
    • By 12/2021, all participating growers will be able to identify 5 factors which could change soil health scores and 2 management practices which could increase their own soil health.
    • By 12/2021, 15 participating growers will implement an additional soil management practice to increase their soil health.
    • By 12/2021, 10 growers will purchase additional soil health tests at our reduced group research rate.
  2. Improve key soil health indicators of participating growers.
    • Growers’ soil organic matter, soil health scores and days/year of living vegetation covering fields will all trend upward by 2021.
  3. Strengthen connections between different factions of Colorado’s agricultural community.
    • By 12/2021, at least 5 growers will present information to the group on their soil health practices and 4 growers will participate in outreach events.
    • By 12/2021, participating growers will jointly approve a final report to Western SARE on the project’s 3-year level of success at achieving our objectives for our 10 year project.

Recruit 15 growers at conferences, meetings.
Develop questionnaires, sampling methods, handouts, classes. 
Organize videotaping, web-hosting.

Pre-soil-testing questionnaires distributed, compiled.
First annual team-building meeting.
Teach soil sampling class, distribute handouts, videotape class.

Assemble, distribute soil sampling kits, soil probes, explanatory material.

Soil samples collected, shipped.
Test results compiled, distributed with SOM#, Soil Health#, Days Living Cover#, explanatory material.
 Continue recruitment.

1/2020 and recurring
Annual questionnaire distributed, compiled.
Annual meeting.  30 growers in project.
Ward Labs class: Interpreting Results. Growers choose following classes.

4-9/2020 and recurring
Soil samples collected, shipped
Test results: compiled, distributed with individualized progress reports

3-year Western SARE report.
All growers identify 5 factors and 2 practices; 15 growers implement additional practices; 10 growers purchase additional tests; 5 growers present information.
Growers’ network established.
2+ outreach events conducted by 4 growers.
Forms available online.

Project ends: 10-year final report.


Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Wyatt Barnes - Producer
  • Jason and Natalie Condon - Producer
  • Brian Coppom - Technical Advisor
  • Anne Cure - Producer
  • John Ellis - Producer
  • Sylvia Hickenlooper - Technical Advisor
  • Daphne Kingsley and C Genter - Producer
  • Lauren Kolb - Technical Advisor
  • Dan Lisco - Producer
  • Catherine Long Gates - Producer
  • John Martin - Producer
  • Marcus McCauley - Producer
  • Michael Moss - Producer
  • Sondra and Matthew Pierce - Producer
  • Travis Rollins - Producer
  • Kayann Short - Producer
  • Eric and Jill Skokan - Producer
  • Keith Bateman
  • JD Burch
  • Bob Condon
  • Bill Howland
  • Sarah Kell
  • Larry Lempka
  • Hunter Lovins
  • Scott Miller
  • Mary and Bob Raynolds
  • Mike Munson
  • Susy and Jeff Reuter and Russell
  • Paula and Joel Shluler and Schaap
  • John Schlagel
  • Amanda and Brian Scott
  • John Sekich
  • Jules Van Thuyne
  • Ben Pfeffer
  • Karel and Alice Starek
  • Dan Yechout
  • Angie Busby
  • Todd and Steve Olander
  • Zach Thode


Materials and methods:

The Citizen Science Soil Health Project is a new 10-year research project which will pay for annual Haney/Phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) soil health tests for each participating grower. The Haney test gives each grower an annual soil health score, which growers will try to improve over the 10-year study period.  Growers will be compared ONLY to themselves over time, and their individual test results will remain confidential.  Growers’ initial soil health scores will vary widely, since each grower’s management and native soils will be very different.  The project will track only the relative change in each grower’s soil health score and will not compare growers with each other.  However, we will give growers the group’s ranges of results for each data point, so growers can see where they fall within the entire group’s results.

Participating growers have agreed to:

  •  Participate in the project for 10 years;
  •  Attend a class on how to take soil samples;
  •  Take soil samples in the same area at the same time each year;
  •  Fill out an annual questionnaire;
  •  Attend one annual potluck meeting covering yearly business, team-building exercises, and a short class, and;
  •  No shaming/badmouthing of other participating growers. 
  • Growers can change soil management practices as long as they document what they are doing. 

Our annual questionnaire is an important part of our research.  Our year-1 pre-soil-testing questionnaire will assess growers’ current knowledge of soil health, current soil management, and current soil testing practices.  We will also ask growers to choose an initial question which they want their soil health testing to answer: for instance “Is my current soil management improving my soil health?”, or “What are the effects of my current crop rotation on soil health?”  This question will help growers choose the location and timing of their soil sample collection, and will emphasize that they are the investigating citizen scientists.  

Subsequent annual questionnaires will ask growers about: their previous year’s soil management; soil inputs such as fertilizers, compost, mulch, cover crops, etc.; days of living cover; the costs per acre of their inputs; tilling methods and timing; water availability and timing; incorporation of animals; effects of above on yield; unusual weather at the soil sampling site; helpful information needed; and preferred meeting times. 

We will compile the data from each grower annually into individualized progress reports, with easy-to-read graphics and spreadsheets. The individualized progress report will allow growers to track how their soil health has changed over the project time-frame, what might account for that change, and where they fall within the range of group results.

To accomplish Objective #1, (Increase soil health knowledge and use of soil health tests by Front Range growers), we will offer the following inducements: free annual Haney/PLFA soil health tests (Ward Labs) for 10 years; additional Haney/PLFA soil health tests at 20% discount; a new soil probe; and a $50 stipend for each soil sample collected for the first 3 years of the project.   We will solicit new participating growers for the project through year 2.  We will include educational material in all questionnaires, newsletters and meetings with participating growers.  We will also produce a short annual class as part of each annual meeting.  We will continue to raise funds to pay for all 10 years of the project, in order to obtain long-range data.  Boulder’s Open Space Departments, Sustainability Office, Farmers Market, Conservation Districts and Chamber of Commerce have all pledged support for the project.  Donations from local businesses and research grants will be solicited for additional funding for following years.  Success will be measured by the number of participating growers in the project, how many decide to purchase additional soil health tests and the number of growers who implement new soil health management practices.

To accomplish Objective #2 (Improve key soil health indicators of participating growers), we will include educational material about soil health practices in all grower questionnaires, newsletters, meetings and individualized progress reports.   We will track, compile and distribute data on soil organic matter, soil health scores and days of living cover.  We will ask growers making the largest gains to give short presentations at annual meetings.  Success will be measured by our growers’ changes in soil health scores, soil organic matter, and number of days/year of living cover.

To accomplish Objective #3 (Strengthen connections between different factions of Colorado’s agricultural community), we will not tolerate any bad-mouthing of other participants.  We will include team-building activities such as “speed-dating”, socializing and meal sharing at each annual meeting (at a grange hall rather than a government office).  We will emphasize that no one grower has all the answers, but collectively the group already has almost all the answers.  Success will be measured by the number of growers who are willing to talk about their soil health practices with rest of the group and participate in outreach events, and by the ease with which participating growers are able to agree on the 3-year report format and content to Western SARE. 

Research results and discussion:

CSSHPYear_EndReport 2019v2

2019 was a busy and successful year for the Citizen Science Soil Health Project.  Here are some of our accomplishments:

  1. We secured funding for the first 4 years of the project.
  2. We added 18 growers to our original 26 back in 2018, lost 2 growers, and now have 42 growers participating in the project.
  3. Our first annual meeting in January 2019 was well attended, and growers learned how to take soil samples.
  4. 39 of our growers completed their baseline questionnaires and successfully collected 1 or more soil samples.
  5. We sent 85 samples in to Ward Labs for Haney and PLFA testing, compiled the data from their test results, and sent user-friendly results to all our participants.
  6. Our growers’ 67 samples, plus 21 samples from City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, plus 8 samples from Boulder County Parks and Open Space gave us a database of 96 soil samples.
  7. We analyzed our baseline data to find overall trends. Our preliminary findings are in the linked file above.


Participation Summary
39 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

18 Consultations
3 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
10 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

75 Farmers
21 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Education for participating producers:
Our project’s on-going annual process of soil testing-> reporting-> self-evaluation-> questionnaire responding-> changing soil management-> soil testing-> etc. is inherently educational for our 15-30 participating growers.  Education is integrated into all parts of our project:

  1. Annual questionnaires will both gather information and educate participating growers. For example, when we ask about water management, we will explain how soil health usually improves faster on irrigated pasture than dry-land range.  
  2. Annual meetings will include classes on various soil health topics. The January 2019 class will cover how to take soil samples.  The January 2020 class will cover interpreting test results by staff from Ward Labs.  We will videotape classes and put them online.  Subsequent years’ classes will be growers’ choice, and may cover: “Applying for Environmental Qualities Incentive Program (EQIP) funding for soil management”; “How to assess your own soil for free”; “A panel discussion on cover-cropping”; “Strategies to reduce tillage”; “Remineralization for depleted soils”; “Key-line plowing to remediate prairie dog infested sites”.  Our current participating growers and advisors include experts on these topics.
  3. Growers’ soil testing results will include educational material on what reported test results mean, normal ranges, and group ranges. 
  4. Growers’ annual individualized progress reports will include educational soil health material.

Educational Outreach to other producers and general public:
Some members of our local public have condemned our participating GM growers’ production methods, and have weaponized previous studies of GM production to malign local growers.  As a result, some of our participating growers are understandably hesitant to disclose operational information.  Accordingly, we have promised that all reports and outreach must first meet approval from our participating growers.  But no matter what our growers eventually approve, we will still be able to report ranges and trends in our data (without identifying information) and we commit to conducting at least 2 outreach events by the end of year-3.  To address our growers’ trust/confidentiality issues and to develop local leadership around soil health, we will include both organic and GM participating growers in each outreach event we conduct. We will wait until year-3 to conduct outreach events, to have time to build trust.

Opportunities for outreach to other growers and the general public include:

  1. Making our video-taped classes available to anyone on-line;
  2. Local radio interviews with Boulder’s KGNU and Greeley’s Luke Runyon of KUNC’s Harvest Public Media;
  3. Presentations by our growers at conferences such as Boulder’s Soil Revolution Conference, the Boulder County Ag Forum, local Soil Conservation Service and Water District meetings throughout the year, and the Boulder County Farmers’ Market annual meetings; and
  4. A field day visit to our healthiest soil growers’ fields in conjunction with Boulder’ annual Soil Revolution Conference. 

Additionally, after approval from our participating growers, in year-3 we will upload to the web all the tools we create to implement our project, including:

  1. Blank pre- and post-testing questionnaire forms used to assess growers’ soil management practices, knowledge and needs;
  2. Soil sampling instructions and sampling kits;
  3. Soil testing processes and blank reporting forms with explanatory material; and
  4. Format of individualized yearly progress reports to participating growers. 

These formatted forms will include questions, explanatory material, instructions and graphics, but no results, answers or information from participating growers.  These forms will help other producers replicate our project in other places.

Educational Outreach Timetable

  • Classes, educational materials for participating growers: January of 2019, ’20, ‘21
  • Test results, explanatory material, individualized progress reports: Summer/Fall 2019, ’20, ‘21
  • 2+ outreach events conducted by 12/2021.
  • Forms and tools online by 12/2021.
  • 3-year Western SARE report compiled by 12/2021.

March 2020 Update

  1. Our first annual meeting in January 2019 was well attended, and 25 growers learned how to take soil samples.
  2. Our growers each received their test results in two different ways: the PDF from Ward Labs, and a 6-page user-friendly spreadsheet with an explanation of their test results.  This User-Friendly Haney plus PLFA Results Form (SampleHaneyPlusPLFAResultsExplanations.pdf) includes normal ranges and explanations for each value.  Additionally, values are color coded (red=concerning, yellow=average, green=good) so that growers can easily scan the results and pick out areas of concern.  An example of this form is included in our "Products".
  3. Our growers completed their year-end Farm Record Sheets by the end of 2019. We have used these sheets to compile grower data on: days of living cover, tons of organic matter inputs, days of animals on the land, days of water availability, and a tillage intensity index. This information will allow us to provide a more in-depth analysis of our data and examine how days of living cover, integration of animals, water availability, organic matter inputs and tillage intensity affect soil health in Colorado
  4. Each grower received their first Individualized Progress Report at the February 2020 annual meeting.  This report shows where their soil(s) fall in comparison with their peers.  An example of this report is listed as a "Product" as Example3IndividualizedProgressReport2019.pdf.
  5. In February, we brought Lance Gunderson, soil scientist formerly of Ward Labs, to Boulder to teach 2 classes here: one just for our participating growers, and one for everyone else who is interested in learning how to interpret results from Haney and PLFA soil health tests. 55 growers, family members and farm employees in the CSSHP attended the 1.5 hour long class at the Altona Grange on 2/13 .  46 growers and ag professionals attended the 3 hour workshop on 2/14 at the Boulder Open Space HUB offices. A course description is listed as a "Product".
  6. We videotaped both classes so that CSSHP growers who weren't able to attend can still view the material.  We are currently editing the videos and expect to have them up on the web by mid-March.
  7. We participated in 2 newspaper interviews about the CSSHP and our findings.  Both articles are included in "Products".
  8. We gave short PowerPoint presentations about the CSSHP and our baseline findings to both the Boulder Valley (6 people) and the Longmont (5 people) Soil Conservation Districts, the St. Vrain and Lefthand Water District (13 people) , the District 6 Water-Users Association (25 people), Boulder's Soil Revolution Conference (250 people), Boulder Community Foundation (75 people) and at Boulder City Council meetings (50-100 people) which are televised on a local municipal channel 8. A PDF of our PowerPoint is included in "Products".

March 2021 Update

  1. We have secured sufficient funding from grants and private donations to cover the first 4 1/2 years of the project.
  2. We added 5 more growers and now have 45 growers participating in the project.
  3. In February 2020, we brought Lance Gunderson, soil scientist from Regen Ag Labs, to Boulder, to teach 2 classes here in Boulder: one just for our participating growers, and one for everyone else who is interested in learning how to interpret results from Haney and PLFA soil health tests. We videotaped these classes and they are now available on the web at: buWErVOQSTw and  These videos are included in the Colorado Collaborative for Healthy Soil's Soil Health Resource Guide for Colorado Growers.
  4. Our 2019 findings on the effects of tillage practices on soil health and the high soil phosphorus levels for some Boulder County organic growers were featured in CU Boulder's Center for Sustainable Landscapes' 2020 Ecosystem Trends report.  I participated in the Center's webinar on Boulder's Soil Health, attended by approximately 250 local residents.  I also wrote an article for Colorado Gardener on the excessive phosphorus trend we are seeing among our home gardeners.  It will be published shortly and I will upload the article as soon as it is available.
  5. Due to COVID, our third annual meeting in February 2021 was on Zoom.  Approximately 35 growers attended and shared their cover cropping experiences.  Dale Strickler of Green Cover Seed discussed "Cover Cropping for Colorado's Front Range", and a panel of 4 CSSHP growers discussed their own experiences with cover cropping.
  6.  Because Zoom does not promote group cohesion, we will also host a Farm Field Day in October 2021 for CSSHP growers, hosted by Growing Gardens, to practice digging soil pits and to share food and information.  Our growers are most interested in hearing from other CSSHP growers about their successful soil health methods.  We expect to be able to safely hold this Farm Field day even if COVID restrictions are still in place, since it will be outdoors and 6 feet apart.
  7. Due to price increases, we decided to run PLFA tests only every other year on soil samples.  Our growers concurred with this decision.  We switched testing labs from Ward Labs to Lance Gunderson's new Regen Ag Lab, since many of our growers have an existing relationship with Lance.  We will run PLFA's again in 2021, or more often if a grower specifically requests one.
  8. 44 of our growers successfully collected 1 or more soil samples in 2020. We sent 101 samples in to Regen Ag Labs for Haney (and some PLFA) testing, compiled all data from their test results, and sent user-friendly results and Individualize Progress Reports to all our growers.
  9. Our growers’101 samples, plus 39 samples from City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, plus 8 samples from Boulder County Open Space and Mountain Parks gives us a database of 148 soil samples for 2020. Adding this to our 96 2019 samples gives us a total data base of 244 soil sample reports from 166 unique sites in Boulder, Weld and Larimer counties.
  10. We analyzed our data to find overall trends. Our 2020 findings are in the "Products" section.
  11. We will continue to solicit additional donations to fund an upgraded printer/computer, 5 additional growers, and personnel. We are focusing recruitment of additional growers on large-scale conventional operations because those growers manage the largest tracts of land.
  12. We will move our data from Excel spreadsheets into a database to preserve its integrity and increase efficiencies.
  13. Our long range goal is to promote several organic and conventional growers as soil health leaders, recognized as such by their peers.
  14. 27 growers responded to our 2020 evaluation survey of the project.  The full survey results are  included in "Products".  Highlights include: 70% of growers found our zoom presentation on cover crops useful; a majority of growers will adopt one or more soil health practices, increase their operation's diversification, change their use of off-farm purchased inputs, and increase their networking with other producers; 90% of growers are interested in a Farm Field Day where they hear from other CSSHP growers about new soil health methods they have tried; the topic of greatest interest for our next annual meeting is "Maximizing Water Yield; Getting the most out of every drop".

Learning Outcomes

54 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • Here are the responses from CSSHP growers and workshop participants to the question, "What did you learn from Lance Gunderson's presentation on Understanding and Interpreting Soil Health Tests?"
    To better understand soil tests and relationships between ratios
    Better understanding of C:N ratios
    Bacteria like alkaline soils, Need so much more.
    Learned a bunch about PLFA's. So much information!
    Good understanding of the soil testing process, PLFA, Haney tests etc.
    Refresh and brought updates to what I learned previously
    That I don't need to add anything for the next few years. Learned about the most important values to pay attention to and the recommended values
    Cover crops effecting soil health; microbes
    More clarity on test parameters
    Just being with the folks doing the work is great.
    Difference between Conventional and Haney soil tests
    Great job coming up with analogies to make it easier to understand soil health
    Lance's discussion various C:N ratios, Biomass
    Ability to read soil tests
    Understand how soil health is determined. Valuable to hear about soil tests. Too many things I learned to list.
    I learned how to better interpret my tests and share with our interns
    The basics
    More depth on C:N ratios and their importance
    PLFA measure fat in the soil
    How to interpret my soil test results
    About relationship of microbes and their functional groups to soil health; about test methods
    Soil "built" from top down
    PLFA and Haney methodology
    Increased knowledge on diversity analysis; better understanding and thus increased skills in recommendations; Opinion changed/tempered on soil analysis because biological attributes and benefits being considered at higher level.
    Science is not my background, there are people out there to utilize as a resource, regeneration is possible.
    Didn't know this test before, so learning a lot about Haney soil test. Learned more about soil life and carbon sequestration.
    I have a greater familiarity with the test and how to evaluate.
    Understanding how soil microbes consume carbon to make nitrogen available to plants: Understanding the significance of the ratios used on the Haney test
    Better understanding of components of soil health and how each variable interacts with others
    How to interpret the test and how the tests are actually run in the lab and what they measure.
    Better understanding of Haney test which is what I've used for the past couple years.
    New tests
    refined my understanding
    How to read soil test scores. The handouts are amazing and very well done.
    More understanding of soil components, what's there, what's needed
    Consult with trained soil health tester/advisor; Continue learning how to balance response to complex data inputs
    Understanding markers of soil health and how they impact N available to crop
    Learned about another testing alternative PLFA; learned how to better interpret Haney soil test results
    How biodiversity works in the cycling; New understanding of how to interpret and how things work together.
    Several different relationships between organisms in soil and plants/ the above ground environment
    So much! How things interact more with one another within the soil and the 2 test types
    A new efficient soil test
    How to interpret Haney and PLFA tests
    How to understand 2 different soil testing systems
    Details of Haney test and application, significance.
    More complex test gives more nuanced solutions
    More natural approaches for revitalization
    How to read and use the Haney and PLFA tests
    How to interpret C:N scores on test
    Valuable skills to more effectively read soil tests with possible courses of action for improvement
    Soil organic matter: there is a difference between measurements of biomass and activity. This means understanding Health and balance is even more complex.

  • Here are the responses from CSSHP growers and workshop participants to the question, "In the upcoming year, how are you going to share some aspect of the CSSHP with others?"
    My employees will learn about some of it as well as other farmers I talk to about farming
    Community talks with the general public
    Yes, I teach vegetable growing; will do and influence Mikl
    I'll work with some of those who couldn't come today
    Just talk to folks who may be interested
    Learn and quiz what others are working with then ask what they would like to change.
    Continue to talk about soil health and how to improve it
    Sharing with other farmers about positive results of CSSHP farmers and how that happened.
    Do more soil tests
    Through our fall pumpkin patch and school field trips
    Informally talking to other growers as well as general public
    Through the soil conservation district
    Talking with other growers
    Presentations for local community; have high school class helping me in May
    I will share the overall findings and concept with people.
    Gain Hands on experience and learn how to apply the concepts to improve our management
    Farm tours, staff education, customers, special farm dinners, our children
    Share presentation with local conservation district and land owners. Help County analyze Haney samples from Open space projects
    Share with other staff at OSMP and coordinate discussion about soil results
    Educating others through work at A1 organics
    with clients
    Will be providing opportunities for educational events
    Soil tests all around. Need baselines to make decisions
    Bring it into soil carbon sequestration classes, landscaping customers interested in SCS
    I will be incorporating Haney PLFA into the carbon sequestration trials we are conducting.
    I can better explain to others the importance of carbon in an organic agricultural system
    Share the video, share the knowledge one-on-one, continue to promote soil health practices
    As consultant with urban farming start-up in CO Springs, possibly as member of Fremont County Conservation District Board.
    Scheduling presenters
    Staff trainings, education of students
    Will incorporate into my field management
    1 acre farm being planned, share insights, info, resources
    Work with growers and producers and will help share the methods of interpretation.
    Share links and continue to work with producers and share knowledge
    Share info with my employees and CSU class cohort, also with my high school ag classes
    Help with producers understanding soil tests.
    Yes, Many useful insights I will share with others
    With colleagues as consider ecological grassland restoration plans
    Study group, master gardeners
    With clients and fellow agronomists on biological recommendations
    Use the knowledge in farm planning
    I will use this information to explore modifying cropping practices to improve soil health
    By sharing my skills with soil test analysis on their sites and encouraging their own deeper dives into this work

  • Here are the responses to the question, "PROFESSIONALS: Please describe how you are likely to use some aspect of Lance Gunderson's class for an educational purpose."
    I teach several classes about soil biology in my community to various audiences including school groups K-12, master-gardener classes, landscapers and food producers. Thank you! Absolutely amazing!
    Through C and programs are scientific; Reporting.
    Sharing with OSMP resource coordinators to better understand and manage their systems (forest, wetlands, grasslands). Great class!
    Use knowledge to better recommend compost products to customers and better understand lab analyticals.
    Incorporate into soil health conference
    We connect with numerous opportunities in all these areas and will use this educational event to enhance these.
    Not sure yet.
    I'm giving talk on carbon sequestration for homeowners and will use what I learned here.
    We have 250 participants in trials and will make strategic use of Haney PLFA to get more thorough info for both individual participants and in presenting aggregated results.
    Help interpret the test and make recommendations
    I'm a small organic vegetable grower so I will definitely use information to inform my own practices, as well as share with peers, students at farm.
    Scheduling presenter for public education
    Students that wish, just the very simple version; Staff so they can teach others; Record keeping education.
    Many of my growers insist fertilizer recommendations aren't high enough. Understanding other aspects of crop growth/soil may help improve production without using more N
    Will probably direct producers to use Regen Lab, will also use tool as part of an educational training for peers or at least share for use of interpreting SH test results.
    NRCS and CD CTA
    Share with my company and update our soil recommendations
    Helping other have the courage to get soil tests and will assist others in understanding their results.
    More natural recommendations for soil amendments as an agronomist
    Bravo! Incorporate into soil Health Planning book, guide and curriculum
    Help people look at soil tests and interpret results
    Cover crops, pilot projects, Water-moisture control.

  • Here are responses from other producers to the question, "If you are thinking about changing a practice based on things you learned today, what are you considering?"
    This confirmed that I am on the right path
    Not a producer but am hoping to see increase use of compost vs. chemical fertilization
    less tillage
    Look for solutions to "concerning" items on Haney tests.
    Increased cover cropping and diversity
    New testing
    Just starting out so will do first soil sample test in Sept/October
    Possibly changing crop or diversifying part of it; will consult with Soil Conservation staff.
    "Producer" role is 3-5 years in future
    Will encourage participating producers to do the above.
    Reduce tillage, increase cover crop
    Take a look at my personal hay fields; get a soil test
    Using this Haney test
    Adding manure, maybe tea, reduce tillage
    Planting a diverse spring cover crop mix
    Less tillage, less synthetic, more cover
    I would like more strategy on diversifications if this is effective.

Project Outcomes

21 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
20 Farmers intend/plan to change their practice(s)
15 Grants received that built upon this project
20 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

2020 UPDATE: 21 out of 42 CSSHP growers made the following comments on their evaluations at our 2020 annual meeting to the question, "How are you going to incorporate your soil health test results into 2020 planning for your operation?"

  • I have been working on soil health for several years and already had a plan that is not being changed but we are making thousands of yards of compost and cover cropping extensively
  • Decrease high phosphorus inputs
  • Know how to limit manure application
  • Look at the soil tests to make decisions
  • Not really.  Just keep doing good practices and evaluate after a few years.
  • Determine baselines
  • I will be modifying my input decisions
  • Paying more attention to the values and trying to improve the soil with holistic ideas
  • More cover cropping and less tilling
  • To design cover crop mixes
  • More thinking about manures
  • I'll check with Lance
  • First we're going to try to study and better understand
  • Leasing now property and building the soil with compost and aged manure.
  • First step will be getting cover crops going.
  • Increasing cover crop and less manure.
  • Grow cover crops, increase compost
  • follow recommendations
  • Increased cover cropping; increased diversity of cover crop mixes

2021 UPDATE: 18 out of 46 CSSHP growers said they had incorporated new soil health practices, when answering our year-end questionnaire in December 2020.  The majority of these are home gardeners or smaller organic growers, but 6 respondents are larger conventional or organic growers. Here are their answers:

  • Added more cover crops year-round 
  • Added sheep grazing; sulfur pellets and sheet mulched with wet cardboard, sheep bedding, leaves, and straw.
  • Adding mushroom compost
  • Biochar, very shallow till by hand, mycorrhizal Plus, molasses water spray 
  • Cover crop seeded
  • Cover crops, prairie dogs removed from pasture
  • Drip Irrigation installed; Manure applied, Seeded Fall Cover Crop 
  • Installed drain on bottom of field; trying to get to no till
  • Intensive cover cropping and grazing animals
  • Irrigation for the first time in 30 years; Chisel and plant grass/alfalfa; annual alfalfa crop; Keyline and power drill
  • Main season cover crop between plantings
  • Manure slurry and manure application; Molasses application
  • Mineralization, nurse crop, compost, biodynamic foliar sprays; Pasture Cropping, Mineralization, Rotational Grazing
  • Moving sod & mulch underneath permanent landscape fabric around trees
  • Mulched with hay and grass clippings
  • No till; Annual Rye cover crop; No till drill
  • Planted perennial vegetables under fruit trees; added charcoal to soil. Planted winter cover crops; added organic mulch and charcoal
  • Used minimal tillage before planting

24 out of 46 CSSHP growers made the following comments on their evaluations at our 2021 annual meeting to the question, "How are you going to incorporate your soil health test results into 2020 planning for your operation?"

  • We have learned where certain soil amendments have produced healthier soil and will broaden use of these practices
  • Modify some fertility, and planting plans on the shoulder seasons.
  • Incorporation with grazing
  • I’m excited to see if doing a winter sowing of cover crop seed will be more successful this year. If so, I would like to be a little more targeted with which cover crops to grow for different areas and different purposes.
  • Nutrient management and mineralization for a more balanced soil.
  • Modify my amendments and practices.
  • Amendments and crop rotation
  • "Smaller parcel" rotational grazing and irrigation
  • Cover crop and gardening efforts. Potentially reaching out to other producers for advice.
  • I have a high PH score and a very high phosphorus score. I'd like to lower the PH score (however temporary), and will try to use more nitrogen rich inputs (maybe some alfalfa pellets). I have two horses, and six next door, which encourages my use of horse manure and the high phosphorus score. I'll use the manure on the pasture and less in my garden. I would also like to produce some fungal-rich compost, but I don't know if I can get that done this year.
  • I've already added sulfur to my fields base on a significant increase in pH (probably due to the drought).
  • Decrease P inputs. Try to mitigate excessive P. Get organic material under landscape fabric.
  • Since our soil health decreased in most areas I am currently studying what changes can be made for this year. Our winter covers are struggling due to lack of moisture and pressure from geese in one field. Spring plans will be affected by final health of the covers in May.
  • Apply compost as needed, hopefully cut down on synthetic fertilizer. Introduce fungi, molasses, and cows.
  • Address nutrient deficiencies.
  • I talk with my fertilizer rep about my samples
  • We will be cross referencing the results with our results from International Ag Labs and using them to plan our fertility program. We will be trying to figure out how to feed and improve our microbial life without consuming the soil organic matter.
  • Going to increase the legumes and decrease the cereal grains in our cover crop mix to try to reduce or at least not increase our phosphorus.
  • Working to build fertility through cover cropping. Fewer amendments that add more P and K.
  • We will use what we learned in 2020 to hopefully improve soil health in 2021
  • On one hay pasture we are planning to use only compost as soil amendment (change from fertilizer), on another pasture we are inter seeding legumes. Remaining pastures will remain status quo for now.
  • Attempt to increase soil organic matter.
  • When we saw the phosphorus was low, we used the government stimulus check to purchase compost from a local maker.
  • Start a new plot with similar high standards and cover seeds.

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.