The National Corn Growers Association on Thursday announced the formation of a new group called the Soil Health Partnership in effort to demonstrate how soil health impacts farmers' bottom lines.
The partnership includes support from the Walton Family Foundation and Monsanto, in addition to NCGA.
The partnership aims to kick start ag sustainability by discussing and demonstrating the economic and environmental benefits of soil health.
The initial objectives of the program, NCGA said, include:
• Building a network of demonstration research farms in key corn states;
• Developing recommendations to farmers on a variety of soil management practices aimed at improving productivity, profitability and environmental outcomes;
• Increasing adoption of those recommendations beyond the network of demonstration farms; and
• Increasing the visibility and importance of sound soil management.
"The health of a farm depends on the health of its soil, and that's what makes this new program an important one for our organization," said NCGA President Martin Barbre. "We developed the Soil Health Partnership with our partners to help our growers be the best farmers they can be, and ensure that their farmland remains valuable and productive for future generations."
Technical support for the project is provided by the Science Advisory Council, the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund.
"We look forward to helping demonstrate and measure how different conservation practices can improve soil health and simultaneously lead to increased yields, profitability and environmental performance," said Sean McMahon, The Nature Conservancy's North American Agriculture Program Director. "We hope that this innovative partnership will help lead to widespread adoption of conservation practices that improve soil health and ultimately improve water quality at a watershed scale."
A key part of the success of the Soil Health Partnership is the Science Advisory Council, Barbre said, the experts who will advise the partnership about the identification, measurement and evaluation of best practices that can improve soil health while boosting yields and improving environmental outcomes.
Members of the SAC include Doug Karlen, Ph.D., Supervisory Soil Scientist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment; C. Wayne Honeycutt, Ph.D., Deputy Chief for Science and Technology of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Jerry Hatfield, Ph.D., Lab Director at the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment; Charles W. Rice, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor of Soil Microbiology at Kansas State University; Mike Plumer, Ph.D., Consultant with Conservation Agriculture and Coordinator of the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices; Daren Harmel, Ph.D., Supervisory Agricultural Engineer at the USDA-ARS Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory; Eileen J. Kladivko, Ph.D., Purdue University Department of Agronomy; Peter C. Scharf, Ph.D., Professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri; and Harold M. Van Es, Ph.D., Professor, Crop and Soil Sciences at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.