From the ground up: Educating Cooperative Extension and NRCS about agricultural technologies to enhance soil health

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $70,723.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2025
Host Institution Award ID: G391-22-W9214
Grant Recipient: University of Arizona
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Elise Gornish
University of Arizona

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: grazing management, manure management, range improvement, rangeland/pasture management
  • Crop Production: fertilizers, no-till, pollinator habitat, pollinator health
  • Education and Training: extension, networking, participatory research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, habitat enhancement, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: mulches - general
  • Soil Management: soil microbiology

    Proposal abstract:

    Growing evidence shows that enhancing soil health can provide a variety of environmental and economic services to managers on working landscapes. However, widespread integration of practices that enhance soil health in rangeland systems is slow, and in some cases, non-existent. Education and encouragement for adoption of these approaches are critical for the wellbeing and economic stability of producers, and for the health of the people who depend on them. In order for producers to employ novel strategies to enhance soil health, they need information about basic soil science, strategies to enhance soil health, and evidence demonstrating the economic or environmental benefits of adopting or modifying existing agricultural techniques in order to enhance carbon sequestration. This type of information is typically accessed through both Cooperative Extension (CE) and the NRCS. In order to provide CE and NRCS with the resources needed to inform producers about soil health and agricultural techniques that involve direct or indirect enhancement of soil health, we propose to deploy workshops that will cover a variety of topics related to soil science; soil health in terms of markets and policy; and agricultural approaches for increasing soil health that are scientifically sound and logistically and financially feasible. The training will enable CE and NRCS to effectively educate clientele on agricultural technologies to enhance soil health and agricultural productivity. We also propose to create a webinar that can be used for training by CE and NRCS personnel across the Southwest. Sustainable cultivation, maintenance, and conservation of soil health not only improves soil conditions, but also enhances the conditions for plant and wildlife habitat. Having access to CE and NRCS personnel who are knowledgeable about the design and implementation of approaches that enhance soil health will provide producers with the tools they need to enhance their quality of life.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1: Provide training for UACE and the NRCS on topics of stable soil carbon, soil health, related agriculture markets and policy, and agricultural technologies to enhance soil health. We propose to deploy four workshops across two years in the state of Arizona. UACE acknowledges the need to provide soil health information and agricultural technologies to ranchers, and are excited to participate in this program. Workshop speakers will provide a comprehensive package of soil health information, from basic science overviews to methods for assessing soil health across rangeland systems to techniques for mitigating soil degradation and enhancing soil health. We expect that a majority of the CE and NRCS personnel in AZ working in relevant areas (i.e. livestock, rangelands, natural resources, weeds, climate change, master gardeners) will participate in our workshops. We expect the broad geographic range of the workshops will encourage attendance by CE and NRCS personnel and each location has facilities to host workshops of up to 75 individuals. Training a large breadth of CE and NRCS staff promotes/encourages widespread transfer of knowledge to producers, in addition to ensuring a long-standing discussion about drought-relevant agricultural practices.

    Objective 2: Develop a webinar. Training of CE and NRCS in the topics of soil health and agricultural approaches to maintain and enhance soil health is necessary to address increasing interests of Southwestern rangeland stakeholders. To address this need, a webinar that includes workshop presentations and handouts will be created for the free use by CE and NRCS personnel nationwide.

    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.