Soil quality workshop: Concepts and practices

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2005: $43,659.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Mary Barbercheck
PSU Dept. of Entomology

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: general grain crops


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: workshop
  • Pest Management: biological control, mulches - killed, prevention
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Extension agents will develop new and transform current programs to incorporate soil quality/health concepts and practices to motivate farmers and other members of the ag community to adopt practices that enhance soil quality. We propose a two-day workshop at the Rodale Institute that builds capacity among extension agents and other agricultural professionals in the Northeast for evaluating and promoting the soil quality paradigm to ag professionals and other stakeholders. The ultimate goal is to increase the numbers of farmers using practices that improve soil quality. We will consider our workshop successful if, of the 25 extension educators and other ag professionals participating, 25 have increased awareness of, useable knowledge about, and improved access to soil quality information and 15 develop and deliver new extension programs that incorporate soil quality and motivate the producers in their area to use practices that enhance their soil quality. Milestones: 1) Extension educators and other agricultural professionals will respond to an informal survey to express needed topics, dates of availability, and preferred learning formats. 2) Selected agents and the training team will develop the workshop program, and choose potential educational materials from existing sources, identify topics that require new materials, and develop a time line. 3) 30 agents will respond to program recruitment notices. 4) 25 agents from across the NE will attend the workshop, develop a soil quality action plan and complete post-workshop evaluations, and participate in follow-up activities. 5) Based on the workshop and evaluations, the planning team and participants will develop and distribute additional soil quality educational tools and materials and information resources. 5) In a one year post-workshop evaluation, 25 agents will report attitude, skill, competency and 15 will report behavior change (integration of soil quality evaluation into their programs).

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Of 25 extension agents and other agricultural professionals that participate, all will increase their knowledge about the relationship of ag practices to soil quality, 23 will accept that managing soil quality is critical to a more sustainable agriculture, and 15 will develop at least one new or transform at least one existing program to incorporate soil quality concepts, practices and evaluation to motivate farmers and others in the ag community to adopt practices that enhance soil quality. These agents will deliver at least one program on soil quality in the subsequent year for their clientele.

    Verification and Assessment: An indicator of success will be the delivery of soil quality programs and projects by participants. Direct feedback from participants will provide critical and directive evaluation of the workshop trainers, content, activities and materials. The evaluation will focus on indicators relating to knowledge attainment as well as attitude, skill, intention and behavior changes. We will conduct written pre- and post-workshop surveys of participants that include a combination of closed- and open-ended questions to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the workshop. This information will reveal the entry level knowledge and attitudes regarding soil quality and previous programming on soil quality, and determine the effectiveness of the workshop in providing participants with new knowledge, skills, motivation and intentions for new programs or projects. Six to nine months after the workshop, participants will be surveyed by email and by telephone to evaluate attitudes and perceptions about soil quality, the trainers and the effectiveness of the workshop in sustaining knowledge and attitudes about soil quality and in changing behavior. Participants will report the extent to which they have initiated programs that include soil quality concepts and practices and the degree to which their audience have adopted some of these methods. Integrating qualitative and quantitative questions will contrast what people say they will do with actual behavior (Stronge & Helm, 1991; Owen, 1999), and provides a basis for improving future training.

    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.