Evalution of soil health measurement tools by current and future farmers to demonstrate the benefits of sustainable practices.

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $17,439.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Rossman Farms
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Michelle Rossman
Rossman Farms


  • Agronomic: corn, grass (misc. perennial), rye


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, youth education
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: social networks

    Proposal summary:

    With a focus on improving crop yields, reducing the use of chemicals, minimizing tillage and maximizing soil health, we have incorporated cover crops on our farm.  We’ve seen benefits in weed suppression, crop yields and enhanced crop health.  These benefits are impactful but we would like to gain a better understanding of how these practices are changing the health of our soils.  There are an overwhelming number of choices available to measure soil attributes and minimal guidance regarding how to use the information gathered to make management decisions.  The cost of soil analyses can be enormous and this investment should be made from an informed perspective but there is a lack of resources available to farmers when choosing soil tests as well as information on how those results align with visual and in-field observations.   This project will evaluate multiple on-farm and lab-based tests and technologies to measure soil attributes, comparing minimal till with cover crops to conventional tillage without cover crops with a focus on soil water dynamics.  High School students will work closely with the farmers, technology advisors and agronomists during the project to assist with conducting all aspects of the sample collections, field observations, data interpretation and dissemination. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1.  Compare data from multiple lab-based soil tests, on-farm tests and in-field observations to determine which tools work best to help make future management decisions.

          2  Engage High School students in all aspects of the project to incite curiosity, develop communication skills and build soil health knowledge. 

           3.  Disseminate information via videos and lectures to assist other farmers, agronomists and extension educators on tools available to measure soil health. 



    Long-term Objectives-  Develop a relationship with high school faculty that supports engagement with ag. community to catalyze interactions with students to build interest in ag. sustainability initiatives and educational opportunities.

    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.