The Soil Quality Network
The Soil Quality Network 2013 was the second of two workshops hosted for agricultural professionals in Portland on February 28 and March 1, 2013 at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon. The Oregon Society of Soil Scientists (OSSS) teamed up with the Soil Quality Network (SQN) for the second year running to draw a total of 107 participants. Two tracks were developed for this year’s event: (1) SQN and (2) OSSS soil track with lectures and field trips geared for each accordingly. Many of the presentations are available on the SQN website: http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/soil-quality-network/2013-sqn-and-osss-winter-meeting.
(1) Dr. Greg Retallack (University of Oregon) started the conference with the keynote on ‘global cooling by grassland soils in the geologic past and near future’. This was followed by the SQN field tour at Cloud Tree and Sun Farm in Corbett, OR, for three rotations of field demonstrations:
(2) Graham Shepherd, BioAgriNomics, field method and score card used to visually assess physical and biological parameters in soil and plants. His assessment technique, called Visual Soil Assessment (VSA) has been adapted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
(3) Ron Raney, Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Data Quality Specialists demonstrated the NRCS method of determining soil moisture by feel and appearance.
(4) Jeff Mitchell, UC Davis, presented graphs and charts on how tillage systems affect plant growth and soil characteristics. He promoted conservation agriculture practices, such as crop rotation and reduced soil disturbance.
(5 The field tour was followed by a poster session in the evening that featured OSU and WSU graduate students.
(1) Carrie Sanneman of the Willamette Partnership presented a nutrient tracking tool designed compare the input of nitrate to groundwater from different cropping systems.
(2) Teresa Matteson and Amy Garrett introduced two Soil Quality Network tools, the SQN Website and SQN Database and presented their vision for a web/database map to globally showcase soil quality activities.
(3) Jeff Mitchell from the UC Davis Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center, presented ‘soil quality initiatives of California’s Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center: motivations, goals, and adoption campaigns’.
(4) Brendon Rockey of Rockey Farms in Center, Colorado. Title: Holistic Potato Management
(5) Graham Shepherd, BioAgriNomics , New Zealand. Title: Visual Soil Assessment
(6) To conclude SQN 2013, a panel addressed the topic: Soil Quality Related to Water Quality and Quantity. Panelists included Rick Fasching, NRCS; Todd Jarvis, OSU Institute for Water and Watersheds; Brian Rabe, Cascade Earth Sciences; and Daniel Moreno, Oregon State University- Water Resources Engineering. Each panelist described their work related to soil and water and the panel collectively answered questions from the audience.
Activities and Methods – With Western SARE funding, we will continue to execute the following three Soil Quality Network (SQN) activities:
(1) Launch the database linked to the Soil Quality Network website. The database component has evolved to include an online interface linked to a map showcasing global soil quality efforts including: in-field practices, research, assessment, technical and financial assistance, and more.
(2) Add content and improve upon the Soil Quality Network website. This site provides global soil quality information and is a central hub for resources, models, research and programs that support soil quality practices on the ground.
(3) Evaluate Soil Quality Network activities via telephone surveys with participants. Analysis of survey results will increase awareness and knowledge when summarized and reported to WSARE and project participants.
In 2013, the Soil Quality Network:
(1) Convened 107 participants from Oregon, Washington, California, and New Zealand to attend SQN 2013. SQN website and future database with global map were debuted. Members of various affiliation attended including: Oregon State University; Portland State University; Washington State University; UC Davis; private land-owners; state local and federal agency staff; and private consultants. A poster session and speed-mentoring facilitated professional and student networking.
(2) Evaluated and analyzed questionnaire responses from SQN 2013 and used that feedback to help shape the email survey. The 2013 workshop questionnaire defined participant demographics. Of the 107 participants, 36% submitted a questionnaire and 66% of those selected the SQN track for the field trip; 47% of responders attended 5 or more of the SQN sessions; Full or part-time students made up 38% of subjects; Fewer than 20% of subjects work directly with farmers or develop, influence or administer programs that impact farmers or agricultural professionals; 22% perform field or lab soil assessments during 50% or more of their work.
SQN 2013 questionnaire responses revealed: a significant increase in knowledge and confidence to demonstrate Graham Shepherd’s Visual Soil Assessment, a significant increase in intention to use the SQN Website as a resource for information, tools, models, outreach examples and research updates, and a moderate increase in intention to help sustain a network for soil quality.
SQN 2013 participants reported moderate to high levels of: knowledge of how of how management impacts soil quality, intention to support the promotion of soil building practices and use soil quality information in their work, and awareness of the relationship between soil management and water quality and quantity.
The following areas of need were identified for future professional development and will be useful applications for the SQN website and database: (1) Build confidence to help farmers implement SQ management practices, (2) Raise awareness of model programs for SQ education and outreach to farmers, (3) Improve ability to share the benefits of soil quality with others.
When asked to describe other soil quality needs and interests that were not addressed during SQN 2013 subjects repeatedly mentioned the need to showcase on-the-ground soil building practices and local producers as soil management leaders. This audience is eager to learn about the following topics related to soil health management: cover crop mixes and varieties for specific purposes, seeding rates for different cropping systems, roller-crimper or other methods to terminate cover crops, dry land summer cover crop mixes, manure management, water quality impacts and urban soil programs for yard care.
(3) Distributed and analyzed the 2013 SQN Email Survey sent to 72 participants and 24% responded. Listed below are the highlights:
60% attended both SQN 2012 and 2013; 33% attended only 2013.
47% reported a 1-10 hour/week increase in soil quality work since their SQN attendance.
70% increased knowledge, resources and tools, contacts and connections related to soil quality.
100% of responders indicated an interest in attending future SQ events and greater than 70% will attend one annually and are willing to travel. 42% are willing to travel greater than 100 miles.
Greater than 50% have visited the SQN website and 100% of them reported that the website is useful.
86% responders indicated an interest in a Soil Quality Network listserv. To join the SQN listserv visit http://lists.oregonstate.edu/mailman/listinfo/soil_quality_network.
These accomplishments were made possible thanks to Western SARE’s willingness to support soil health education for agricultural professionals. We look forward to the Soil Quality Network growth in 2014 and beyond!
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
SQN 2013 questionnaire responses revealed an increase in intention to help sustain a network for soil quality and the next SQN will be hosted by WSU in Mt. Vernon WA on February 13, 2014.
Oregon State University
3075 Agriculture and Life Science Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-7306
Office Phone: 5417376810
National Technology Specialist
NRCS West National Technical Support Center
1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite 1000
Portland, OR 97232
Office Phone: 5032732428
Tiicham Conservation District
46411 Timine Way
Pendleton, OR 97801
Office Phone: 5412767784
Natural Resources Conservation Service
1201 NE Lloyd Blvd.
Portland, OR 97323
Office Phone: 5034143003
Oregon State Resource Conservationist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
1201 NE Lloyd Blvd.
Portland, OR 97232
Office Phone: 5034143085