Training professionals on sustainable agriculture for enhanced ecosystem service from the ground up

Project Overview

ENC10-118
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2010: $65,900.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Khandakar Islam
The Ohio State University South Centers

Annual Reports

Information Products

Commodities

  • Agronomic: corn, oats, rye, spelt, sorghum (milo), soybeans, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay

Practices

  • Animal Production: manure management, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, extension, focus group, mentoring, study circle, workshop
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, energy use
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, biodiversity, habitat enhancement, indicators, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, biological control, mulches - killed, mulches - living, cultivation, row covers (for pests), smother crops, mulching - vegetative
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, composting, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, soil chemistry, soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Abstract:

    Understanding the role of management practices on soil health and agroecosystems is critical to improving the sustainability and productivity of agriculture. Toward that goal, we conducted a series of day-long (7-hour) multi-state train-the-trainer workshops for educators and professionals to equip them with new information, practical knowledge, teaching materials and techniques, and assessment tools to assist farmers in shifting to sustainable agricultural practices.

    Fourteen workshops were conducted in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, and Canada during 2011 to 2013. During these events, presentations were followed by hands-on activities (use of soil quality kit) and visualization of tools (OSU soil organic matter calculator), questions and answers, group discussions, and evaluation. More than 1100 educators and professionals (including farmers) from 18 states and Canada were trained in those workshops.

    Evaluations of the training activities showed that about three-fourths of the participants had positive responses to questions about different factors in the training.

    Soil organic matter was identified as the most critical soil property to sustain soil quality. A lack of knowledge/education and tradition were rated the most important barriers to improving soil quality. Cover crops, crop rotation and conservation tillage (especially no-till), together were identified as the core management components of the sustainable agriculture.

    Almost 90% of the respondents were pleased with the educational materials and tools provided for teaching local farmers. In the post-workshop evaluation (after 6-month), about two-thirds of the respondents reported they are actively involved in educating local farmers.

    Based on communications during and following our workshops, we expect that our training information and tools will be shared with more than 10,000 farmers. A web page (http://southcenters.osu.edu/soil) will include our project information (results, surveys, videos and photographs, and peer-reviewed and Extension publications).

    Project objectives:

    In response to strong interests shown by NC states and SARE on sustainable agriculture, the main goal of our study was to conduct a series of train-the-trainer multi-state workshops for Educators and professionals to equip them with new information, practical knowledge, teaching materials and techniques, and assessment tools to assist farmers in shifting to sustainable agriculture to improve soil health for enhanced ecosystem services. Specific objectives were:

    1. Develop teaching/training materials including USB flash drive, notebook, fact sheets, and electronic media with the assistance and review from a multi-state advisory group representative of the target audience.

    2. Train 200 professionals to gain knowledge and understanding of sustainable agriculture for enhanced ecosystems services. [Note: we trained 1142.]

    3. Foster partnerships among the professionals to support and organize cooperative programs on sustainable agriculture in NC region.

    The expected outcomes/performance targets will reflect the main goal and the outcomes and performance will be documented through data analytics.

    Short-term outcomes

    1) Educators and professionals will become aware of sustainable agricultural practices to improve soil quality, crop productivity, and farm sustainability.

    2) Educators will acquire practical knowledge, learn new techniques and tools, and develop skills to teach/assist local farmers.

    3) Educators will be motivated to teach sustainable agricultural practices to clientele.

     

    Intermediate outcomes

    1) Educators will train/assist farmers on sustainable agriculture related to conservation tillage, cover crops and crop rotation, manure nutrient recycling, and soil quality improvement.

    2) Motivated educators will develop, organize and implement programs to assist farmers, including workshops, WebEx programs, open-house, demonstration plots, and field days.

    3) Educators will assist farmers in shifting to sustainable agriculture by removing road blocks.

     
    Long-term outcomes

    1) About 20 to 30% of farmers in the NC region will adopt sustainable agricultural practices in the next 10 to 15 years.

    2) Nutrient recycling (cover crops and manure) in conservation tillage will increase by 20%. As a result, chemically reactive fertilizer usage will decrease by 10% per unit of production.

    3) Economics of agricultural production will be improved.

    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.