The Soil Quality Network

2012 Annual Report for EW11-021

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2011: $56,992.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Teresa Matteson
Benton Soil and Water Conservation District

The Soil Quality Network


The first Soil Quality Network workshop (SQN 2012) for agricultural professionals was planned and successfully delivered. Held on February 23 and 24, in Portland, Oregon, the event engaged 104 agricultural professionals and students. Twenty-five speakers presented topics to increase participants’ knowledge of tools to measure and evaluate soil quality and demonstrate how management practices impact soil quality. SQN 2012 questionnaires provided planning guidelines for SQN 2013, scheduled for February 28 and March 1. SQN 2013 will serve as the SQN database debut.

For more information visit the SQN website at

To register for SQN 2013 visit

Objectives/Performance Targets

With Western SARE funding, we will continue to execute the following four Soil Quality Network (SQN) activities:

(1) Host the second of two Western SARE-funded workshops to train agricultural professionals in soil quality assessments, education program development and strategies to support farmers. Participants will attend one day of field demonstrations on visual soil assessment, soil water holding capacity, and the estimation of soil moisture by feel and appearance. Formal presentations will (1) expand on the science behind Graham Shepherd’s Visual Soil Assessment method and (2) benefit from Jeff Mitchell’s leadership of an interdisciplinary team of UC Davis-based researchers and farmers that are currently conducting on-farm demonstrations and evaluations of biologically integrated farming practices in the annual cropping systems of California. This is a two-track event shared with the Oregon Society of Soil Scientists’ Winter Meeting.

(2) Develop and use a database to rank soil samples, document changes in soil management, track participation in federal, state and local soil quality incentive programs, monitor management impacts on soil quality, and support future demonstration projects and research.

(3) Add content and improve upon the Soil Quality Network website. This site is intended to make soil quality information globally available and to be a central hub for resources, models, research and programs that support soil quality practices on the ground.

(4) Evaluate Soil Quality Network activities via written workshop evaluations and telephone surveys with participants. Analysis of interview results, evaluations and surveys will increase awareness and knowledge when summarized and reported to WSARE and project participants.


(1) SQN 2012 convened over 100 soil quality devotees from Oregon, Washington, Utah, California and Ohio. Participants included members of various affiliations, including Oregon Society of Soil Science and Oregon Soil and Water Conservation Society, government agency staff, and private consultants, as well as twenty-six students from four Pacific Northwest higher education institutions. Special workshop components were incorporated to encourage student attendance and facilitate their interaction with professionals.

(2) SQN 2012 questionnaire responses provided programmatic guidance for SQN 2013 planning. Results clearly showed the need to target agricultural professionals who work directly with farmers and the importance of including demographic questions in the future. SQN 2012 evaluations indicated that farm tour demonstrations greatly improved participants’ knowledge and confidence to teach soil quality concepts. Based on those findings, soil quality field demonstrations will be included in SQN 2013. Continued evaluation and analysis will occur during SQN year-3 through phone interviews, email surveys and the database.

(3) The Soil Quality Network website, hosted by the Oregon State University Small Farms Program, serves as an evolving tool to publicize SQN 2013 and provide resources to strengthen global soil quality efforts.

(4) We sub-contracted with the Conservation Biology Institute to construct the SQN database. Hosted on the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District’s server and linked to the Soil Quality Network website, this tool will provide an interface to document soil quality programs, outreach and changes in management practices.

(5) SQN 2013 plans are well underway with venue, presenters and farm tour sites secured.

SQN 2013 registration is live at!

View the draft agenda at

SQN 2013 is being advertised through listservs and publications, such as newsletters, of sponsors and associates.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Soil Quality Network tools (training, website, database) will help agricultural professionals possess the knowledge and confidence to guide farmers in soil-building practices. These tools form a junction where conservation planners and consultants, who work directly with farmers, intermingle with Farm Bill Program managers and environmental regulators. This collaboration will support farmers who explore soil quality management and, ultimately, benefit the common good.


James Cassidy
Faculty Instructor
Oregon State University
3075 Agriculture and Life Science Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-7306
Office Phone: 5417376810
Joshua Owens
Oregon Society of Soil Scientists
PO Box 2382
Corvallis, OR 97339
Office Phone: 5037804912
Russ Hatz
National Technology Specialist
NRCS West National Technical Support Center
1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite 1000
Portland, OR 97232
Office Phone: 5032732428
Jim Smith
District Coordinator
Tiicham Conservation District
46411 Timine Way
Pendleton, OR 97801
Office Phone: 5412767784
Chad McGrath
Soil Scientist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
1201 NE Lloyd Blvd.
Suite 900
Portland, OR 97323
Office Phone: 5034143003
William White
Oregon State Resource Conservationist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
1201 NE Lloyd Blvd.
Suite 900
Portland, OR 97232
Office Phone: 5034143085
Jerry Nicolescu
Executive Director
Oregon Association of Conservation Districts
737 13th Street SE,
Salem, OR 97301
Office Phone: 5035669157
Amy Garrett
Project Manager
Extension Small Farms Faculty, Oregon State University
1849 NW 9th Street
Corvallis, OR 97330
Office Phone: 5417663551