Data points are being collected on more than 4,000 acres
A soil health program aimed at determining the economic, yield and environmental benefits of farm practices such as cover crops, nutrient management and reduced tillage has enrolled 111 farms across 12 states.
The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is an initiative of the National Corn Growers Association that is testing conservation practices on farms using 20- to 80-acre plots. The size of the test fields “allows us to have reduced variability on each farm to strengthen our data set,” says Jack Cornell, operations manager for SHP.
The research trials take place on just over 4,000 acres across the program, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect its magnitude, Cornell says. “It’s important to understand that these acres are representative research acres, strategically placed geographically to represent different soil types, climates, and cropping systems,” he says. “This program is not necessarily about how many acres change practices within SHP. It’s about how the data those farms gather can demonstrate a positive economic impact from these practices, and that in turn can convince many more farmers to adopt the practices on a larger scale.”
The program receives financial support from Monsanto, NCGA, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Walton Family Foundation, General Mills and the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative. Technical support is from the Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy.
It aims to provide long-term, farm-specific data insights including soil lab reports, mid-season aerial imagery, and profitability and ROI analysis in partnership with startup AgSolver (now EFC Systems).
The project leaders shared interim data at farmer field days and research meetings this summer and fall throughout the Midwest, and researchers will prepare articles for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals, SHP director Nick Goeser says.