Participatory website development for soil quality education and assessment to improve agroecosystem management

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2000: $53,536.84
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Federal Funds: $53,678.30
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $29,160.00
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Susan Andrews

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, cotton, flax, oats, peanuts, potatoes, rice, rye, safflower, soybeans, sugarbeets, sunflower, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Fruits: melons, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, berries (other), cherries, grapes, olives, peaches, pears, pineapples, plums, berries (strawberries)
  • Nuts: almonds, pecans, walnuts
  • Vegetables: sweet potatoes, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucurbits, garlic, lentils, onions, peas (culinary), peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: tobacco, ornamentals


  • Animal Production: manure management, grazing - rotational, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, indicators, riparian buffers, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, organic matter, composting, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    An educational website was developed to help agricultural professionals use soil quality concepts to achieve their sustainable agriculture goals. Its temporary URL is: Website content, which includes an educational section, a management practices and problems section, a resources section, and an assessment-tools section, reflects needs identified by farmers, educators, and farm advisors from IA and IL during focus groups. Additional resources are being sought to respond to needs identified by participants in a usability test, and to expand the audience for the site by partnering with appropriate long-term hosts and incorporating the tools section of the site into the National Soils Research Program 202 of USDA-ARS.

    Project objectives:

    Our objective was to develop a web resource that would help farmers, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) field personnel, crop consultants, and extension staff develop a fuller understanding of soil quality and help them achieve their sustainable agriculture goals. Our principle performance target is the successful development of an Internet web site for soil quality education and assessment that is useful and used.

    Our initial objectives were to:
    1. Ask land managers, NRCS field personnel, and extension agents to respond critically to soil-quality resources and express their informational needs in a one-and-a-half-day work session that would guide the development of the web site.
    2. Provide on the web site extensive educational materials on soil quality and its relationship to soil function and sustainable agriculture.
    3. Provide on the web site interactive soil-quality assessment techniques after they have been adapted based on work-session input.

    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.