- Education and Training: extension, networking, technical assistance, workshop
- Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
- Soil Management: soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: social networks
A plethora of research into soil health indicates that agricultural practices that improve soil health can increase resilience to a variety of biotic and abiotic stressors, decrease reliance on synthetic inputs, and improve long-term economic sustainability. Promising practices which have long been studied include: keep it covered; do not disturb; increase diversity; add amendments, cover cropping, and residues; and re-integrate crops and livestock. However, producer adoption remains a challenge – not because they don’t want to improve soil health, but because of real economic, logistical, and other barriers.
Additionally, producers need to see examples from others and better understand the economic implications of specific practices under their conditions before they are willing to adopt them.
Funding from this project brought together agricultural professionals and key producers from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, with an overarching goal to give those who provide information to farmers a toolbox to support the adoption of soil health practices. Attendees at the summit included researchers who provided the most recent soil health insights and trained professionals to use existing decision support tools. Producers presented at the summit with important on-the-ground insights. Attendees engaged in demonstrations, and dialog on the challenges, opportunities, and paths towards increased adoption of soil health practices. Information gathered during facilitated discussions has been synthesized and will be available to regional leadership to support and coordinate broader state-level efforts. Additionally, a toolbox of materials is available to attendees; these will provide links and instructions on focused tools provided at the workshop.
Our project built on an existing collaborative regional process that indicated that moving forward soil health issues is a priority. Before the summit, a survey provided additional insight on attitudes toward soil health research, services, and policies. The survey informed facilitated conversations for the summit.
Our objectives are to:
• Improve awareness of existing, new, and evolving regional soil health practices and projects to foster learning relating to innovative strategies that can be promoted and utilized by agriculture professionals.
• Provide hands-on training on soil health practices, and familiarity with tools that can be used to support producer decision making related to soil health.
• Improve understanding of the practical barriers to improving soil health and resources and opportunities for moving past those barriers.
• Create a forum for state leaders to improve consensus about needs, priorities, and funding opportunities for collaborative regional efforts for the next five years around soil health.