Five-year initiative aims to measure soil health benefits


Corn and hay grow on these rolling hills in Clayton County, Iowa (Todd Ehlers/Flickr)
Corn and hay grow on these rolling hills in Clayton County, Iowa (Todd Ehlers/Flickr)
KC McGinnis | March 17, 2016

An initiative from the National Corn Growers Association aims to quantify just how much of an effect healthy soil practices can have on farmers, markets, and the environment.

The Soil Health Partnership, now entering its third year, is a network of 65 farm test sites around the country that seeks to identify, test, and measure the benefits of soil management practices like no-till, limited till, and cover crops. Increasing the health of degraded soils can have a wide range of positive effects:

  • Improving soil structure, making it more porous and less prone to nutrient runoff.
  • Increasing organic matter in the soil, which helps with crop fertility.
  • Stripping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via photosynthesis — carbon which is then released back into the soil, where it can continue to rebuild soil structure.

The data-driven partnership hopes to bring in 100 farm partners to operate as test sites for five years. The initiative has received support from a wide range of partners, including Monsanto and the Environmental Defense Fund. These partners provide funding and technical support to help farmers collect data on their soil and nutrient practices that can be used to demonstrate the benefits of these practices in concrete economic figures.

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