Improving Access to Soil Carbon Proxy Testing: Training Educators to Monitor Soil Health

Project Overview

ONE20-378
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $29,266.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2023
Grant Recipient: NOFA/Mass
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Education and Training: technical assistance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    NOFA/Mass will scale up soil health technical assistance around the region and collect longitudinal data from three farm partners who will use the carbon proxy test results to inform their practices and improve soil health. The NOFA/Mass soil carbon proxy testing program provides on-farm soil health assessment, using a range of soil health indicators as proxies for a relative level of soil carbon sequestration capacity. 

    At NOFA/Mass we continue to see a demand for technical assistance that outstrips our ability to meet it. We will scale up by building capacity for testing in neighboring states, New York and Connecticut, and also by offering increased testing within Massachusetts. In each of the three states—NY, CT, and MA—carbon proxy testers will collect longitudinal data by testing the same farm for three years and monitoring changes in soil health. The soil is a formidable carbon sink but will only serve that purpose if—on the individual farm level—farmers all over the world, large and small, understand how their management practices impact the capacity of their soil to build soil carbon over time.  

    Our project outreach will include distributing four publications on the topic of carbon soil restoration including our White Paper “Soil Carbon Restoration: Can Biology do the Job?”.  We will also leverage our newsletter, podcast, and webinar audience, and our partners at the Massachusetts Healthy Soils Action Plan Advisory Team, OpenTEAM field methods working group, the National Healthy Soils Policy Network, and in the Soil Carbon Coalition to share outcomes. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to demonstrate that farmers can better increase soil carbon once they have had their soil tested and can subsequently work with the results to improve management practices. In addition to testing, we will interpret and review results with the farmers who manage each of these three properties as they work to improve soil health.  The three farms participating in the multi-year data collection are diversified vegetable farms and collectively cultivate 329 acres. 

    This project also seeks to improve access to soil carbon proxy testing by training three additional testers. Caro Roszell, the NOFA/Mass Soil Carbon Program Coordinator, will train two NOFA-NY staff members and one CT NOFA staff member to be able to conduct soil carbon proxy testing in their states.  

    If the project is successful, the three farms that are partners in the study will see the most immediate benefit, but the results will serve as a model that will benefit other farmers around the country. We will disseminate the success of the three partner farms to thousands of people in NOFA/Mass digital media outlets (see below). There is the added benefit of jump starting soil carbon proxy testing programs in CT and NY. 

    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.