Advancing Knowledge of Soil Health Assessment and Management Through California’s North Coast Soil Hub

Project Overview

WPDP22-022
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $78,167.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2024
Grant Recipients: Marin Resource Conservation District; Napa Resource Conservation District
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Emilie Winfield
Marin Resource Conservation District
Co-Investigators:
Keith Abeles
Sonoma Resource Conservation District
William Hart
Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District
Erica Lundquist
USDA-NRCS Ukiah Field Office
Sanjai Parikh
University of California Davis
Lucas Patzek
Napa County Resource Conservation District
Dr. Kerri Steenwerth
USDA/University of California Davis

Commodities

No commodities identified

Practices

No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

The North Coast Soil Hub (Soil Hub) is a network of agricultural professionals, producers, scientists, nonprofits, industry groups, and other innovators who share a mission of supporting the role of agriculture as a natural climate solution through enhancing soil health - the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans - on agricultural lands. Through field trials, demonstrations, events, and carbon farm planning, the Soil Hub has fostered greater recognition of the role soil health plays in creating and maintaining productive, resilient agroecosystems.

This project provides training for agricultural professionals through an education series on complex topics in soil health. Soil Hub members identified the following 5 topics as areas of greatest need for education in order to advance carbon farming programs and better serve producers: interpreting soil tests, biochar, compost, cover crop mixes, and forage planting. The series addresses these topics by bringing together researchers from UC Davis, producers, experts at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs), and other organizations to explore the latest science and methods for assessing soil health and utilizing amendments and soil cover practices. The Soil Hub is connected to a statewide network of agricultural professionals through the CA Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) and educational products from this project will be promoted beyond the North Coast region.

The 5-part series enhances the ability of agricultural professionals to advise producers on sustainable practices by increasing knowledge and comfort with specific topics to address current knowledge gaps. By bringing in educators from across academia, professional service providers, and producers, participants will develop a richer view of soil conservation work happening on the front lines, connecting their experience and education with current work in the field.

Project objectives from proposal:

Objective 1: Develop an education series to respond to the greatest needs of agricultural professionals related to soil health management and assessment, as determined by the Soil Hub and partners. 

Activity: The PIs and planning committee will organize events to provide training for each of the five topics: interpreting soil test results to assess soil health, compost, biochar, cover crops, and forage planting. Educators will be a mix of researchers, staff from NRCS, UCCE, and RCDs, producers, and experts from partner organizations. 

 

Objective 2: Register a minimum of 25 participants for each event.

Activity: Perform outreach to agricultural professionals in the North Coast region through the Soil Hub network. Promote educational events broadly through established networks to RCDs, NRCS, UCCE, consultants, nonprofits, and other locations where agricultural professionals are active across California to make the events available to a wide audience. Perform outreach to producers who may be interested in attending, as well as members of the community, researchers, and other stakeholders. 

 

Objective 3: Increase knowledge and understanding of soil health management and assessment among agricultural professionals.

Activity: Deliver 5 virtual and in-person educational events, focused on diving deep into the following topics:  interpreting soil test results to assess soil health, compost, biochar, cover crops, and forage planting.

 

Objective 4: Evaluate project outcomes.

Activity: Conduct a post-event assessment survey to determine the quality and effectiveness of the events. Following the series, host an evaluation meeting for the Soil Hub to reflect on what was learned and discuss how to incorporate information from the series into carbon farming and education programs. 

 

Objective 5: Share education products with agricultural professionals statewide.

Activity: Make recordings of the virtual sessions available to all 95 RCDs in California, NRCS and UCCE staff, and carbon farm planners across the state through relevant networks. 

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.