Farmers Educating Farmers: Developing a Soil Quality Indicator Guide

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2001: $10,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Western
State: Idaho
Principal Investigator:
Kyle Wilson
Natural Resource Conservation Agency


  • Agronomic: wheat


  • Education and Training: networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, organic matter, soil quality/health


    The project funds created a Palouse and Nezperce Prairies Soil Quality Card Guide, an educational tool for the region. The prairies cover more than 8,900 square miles, an area with a large farmer population base that can be reached through development of the tool.

    Grower workshops, conducted by a technical support team, guided farmers through the development and distribution process of the soil quality guide. Workshop topics included: selection of soil quality elements (such as soil compaction, infiltration, the presence of living organisms, the presence of organic matter, etc.) to include in a regional soil quality guide. From information gathered at the workshops, a draft guide was developed and distributed to the Nez Perce Tribe, USDA offices, conservation district offices, the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association and growers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho for field testing. Field evaluation comments were then incorporated and a final guide prepared.


    Improving soil quality is an important part of sustaining the economic viability of farming operations and improving the quality of life for farmers. There is a significant need for education on the subject of soil quality in the geographic area that is part of this Western SARE grant, and the development of a soil quality guide is deemed a significant step in the process.

    The Paoluse and Nez Perce Prairies, part of the Northwestern Wheat and Range Region, cover more than 8,900 square miles, an area with a substantial population that can be reached through the development of a soil quality card guide. More importantly, the product development itself could empower a significant number of participating farmers.

    Project objectives:

    This proposal is to develop a Soil Quality Indicator Guide for the Palouse and Nez Perce Prairies to meet educational and management needs. Project objectives are:

    1. Increase producer knowledge about soil quality and health.

    2. Increase communications and rapport between farmers, extension professionals and agricultural researchers through the distribution and use of the cards.

    3. Incraese farmer buy-in to the concepts of soil quality and soil health, resulting in field management decisions leading to greater agricultural sustainabilty and greater farm financial stability.

    4. Assist farmers in detecting both short- and long-term soil quality changes.

    5. Improve farm management record keeping systems and improve analytical and observational skills in the field.

    6. Provide a tool for growers to self-evaluate their direct seeding operations. The ability to evaluate soil quality change over time will assist in grower adoption of direct seeding systems.

    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.