Accelerating Soil Health and Farm Profitability using Biological Amendments

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $29,864.00
Projected End Date: 12/15/2024
Grant Recipient: Jeff Steffen
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Jeff Steffen
Jeff Steffen


  • Agronomic: corn, rye
  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Animal Production: grazing - multispecies, winter forage
  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, cover crops, crop rotation, foliar feeding, no-till
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life

    Proposal summary:

    One barrier to overcoming adoption of soil health management systems (SHMS) is the amount of time (5-7 years in some cases) it takes to see improvements to soil and farm profit. In this case we have a poorly producing, degraded alluvial soil in the Missouri river bottom of northeast Nebraska. Historically the answer has been more and deeper tillage in the mostly corn and soybean rotation. This has degraded soils even more to the point that even irrigated yields are poor in relation to the high inputs used. Low profitability contributes to high farmer stress and less opportunity to bring the next generation into the operation.

    We will evaluate the increase in environmental, economic and social benefits of four different management systems: the status quo, a SHMS with a more diverse rotation and the use of cover crops and livestock, and SHMS with the addition of biological amendments from Advancing Eco Agriculture and Elevate Ag.

    We will evaluate soil health, profit, and social responses to system management to see if they can be attained quicker from the addition of biological amendments. Quick initial improvement would provide greater incentive to adopt and continue the SHMS for long term gains.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1-Evaluate biological amendments ability to accelerate soil health.

    2-Evaluate the economic profitability of soil health management systems (SHMS) with and without biological amendments.

    3-Assess the stress level and job satisfaction of farmers implementing SHMS.

    4-Assess the likelihood of biological amendments increasing the adoption of SHMS and their ability to bring the next generation into the farming operation.

    5-Create and share a fact sheet at in-person events, post to the Bow Creek website, and display at the local Fair.

    6-Educate 80-120 producers, 5 crop consultants/agronomists, three ag lenders, and three media contacts about the project and findings.

    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.