- Crop Production: cover crops, nutrient cycling
- Education and Training: workshop
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
- Pest Management: mulches - living
- Production Systems: agroecosystems
- Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, organic matter, soil quality/health
Progressive producers in the Dakotas are experimenting with diverse cover crops in their crop rotations with results including enhanced water availability and fertility. Enhanced soil health due to increased microbial activity is promoted as the reason yet soil biology is not well understood by agricultural professionals advising producers. This project proposes to train NRCS district conservationists and soil conservationists, Extension educators, tribal college instructors, two and four year agriculture college instructors, and Soil Conservation District supervisors, technicians, and watershed coordinators in advanced soil health principles and soil biology.
Two day trainings including 1/2 day with producers in their fields will be conducted in two locations each in North and South Dakota. Follow-up training will be given electronically to fill voids, answer predominate questions, and provide new information in the second year following an extensive evaluation given after the first year's sessions. A subsequent final evaluation will determine how the training information has been incorporated into the target audience's educational programming.
Project objectives from proposal:
Outcomes from this training will include:
1. An increased awareness and understanding of soil health and biology and their influence on yield and economic return.
2. These principles will be incorporated into the educational programming and communications with producers.
3. Educators will view cropping as a system where the natural cycles must be in sync to maximize efficiencies thereby reducing added fertilizers and pesticides.
4. Educators mindset will change from stressing outside inputs for yield increase to focusing on improving soil health and biology thus achieving maximum efficiencies and economic return.