Idaho Qualitative Soil Health Initiative and Training

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2018: $15,724.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Ada Soil & Water Conservation District
Region: Western
State: Idaho
Principal Investigator:
Jessica Harrold
Ada Soil & Water Conservation District
Josie Erskine
Ada Soil & Water Conservation District


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: grazing management, inoculants
  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, cover crops, crop rotation, pollinator habitat
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance, workshop

    Proposal abstract:

    The Ada Soil and Water Conservation District is seeking SARE Grant funding to further educate Shawn Nield, State Soil Scientist of NRCS, and Josie Erskine, District Manager of Ada Soil & Water Conservation District, on qualitative food web analysis. The Idaho NRCS recently purchased six microscopes to be used in the field offices by district conservationists. At this point, the Idaho NRCS staff lacks the knowledge of how these microscopes are used to analyze the food web in the soil. Our goal is to seek training and education for these two individuals with the intent they train NRCS employees,  conservation District employees and producers all around the state. We have come to believe that the only true way to measure soil health is to be able to look inside of it and see what organisms are present, their quantities, and how they are functioning. We are requesting funding to have both Shawn and Josie receive training from Dr. Elaine Ingham and become certified soil life consultants through her online course and on-site workshops. After Sean and Josie receive the certification, they will hold qualitative soil analysis training sessions in the six regions of Idaho. The goal of the project is that each of the six regions of Idaho will have several conservationists that are trained on the microscopes, and can use these tools to promote soil health and address resource and conservation concerns.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objective of the project is to build the understanding of soil and how it is functioning through training and education. The advancement of soil science is incredible and NRCS employees need to build their knowledge and have the necessary tools and training to help producers build soil and understand how it functions.
    1. Shawn Nield and Josie Erskine will receive training from Dr. Ingham. They will attend 45
    online courses, a 2 day training workshop, and complete certification. This will take
    approximately 6 months.
    2. Shawn and Josie will set up multi-day initial workshops across the state of Idaho to train
    NRCS employees, Conservation District employees and farmers and ranchers on how to
    use the microscopes and how the knowledge can be applied in the field. This will begin
    after certification. Idaho NRCS has six regional offices and all district conservationists will
    be trained on the microscopes.
    3. Shawn and Josie will have follow up training and workshops for employees but will also
    hold workshops for producers and educators within the state. The knowledge learned will
    be shared for years to come.

    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.