- Crop Production: cover crops
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, workshop
- Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
- Soil Management: earthworms, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil quality/health
Soil health is defined by the Soil Health Partnership as "the continued capacity of a soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans." Management to improve soil health usually involves the incorporation of different sustainable agriculture methods like reduced tillage, cover cropping and crop rotation.
Over the last five years there has been an increase in soil health activities. Though awareness of soil health has increase among scientists, there is need to increase this knowledge among farmers related to how soil health can be measured and improved. Specifically, farmers have identified deficiencies in information on the benefits of soil health practices and how to measure them. Farmers have also indicated a need for locally specific information and many are uninformed about the financial and technical assistance available through NRCS programs.
In Tennessee, there has been uneven adoption of certain sustainable management practices for soil health. This project will focus on local needs identified by Extension agents and a stakeholder group to develop a teaching curriculum and soil health test kit for Extension agents and other local officials, and provide an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to identify the effects of certain management practices in their area through the establishment of demonstration sites.
The goal of Soil SMaRTS program is to engage a representative of institutions (TSU, University of Tennessee, Tennessee Association of Conservation Districts, USDA-NRCS) to:
- Develop a soil health curriculum;
- Implement a hands-on train-the-trainer program;
- Establish demonstration areas.
One trainer workshop will be held in each of the three regions in Tennessee and participants will be provided with the curriculum and a soil health test kit and trained on its use in the field through live, hands-on demonstrations.
Objective 1: Establish a stakeholder advisory group consisting of agents and farmers to provide assistance in planning the overall structure of the curriculum.
Objective 2: Develop a curriculum, training manual and workshop plan for trainers to use as they train farmers.
Objective 3: Establish demonstration areas comparing soil health management practices.
Objective 4: Field test the curriculum and training manual through train-the-trainer workshops and initial questionnaires that focus on content knowledge, potential changes in practice and feedback from the workshop, hands-on activities and demonstration area.
Objective 5: Revise curriculum and workshop activities based on data collected during field testing to produce a final version of the program.
Objective 6: Upload or link revised final version of curriculum and training manual to TSU Cooperative Extension, TACS and SARE websites.