Advanced Soil Health Systems Training for Indiana USDA-NRCS

By Rafiq Islam, PhD
Soil, Water and Bioenergy Resources Program

Several members of our Soil, Water, and Bioenergy Resources Program staff and The Ohio State University Extension educators recently organized a field day on “Hands-on Soil Health” for farmers and two-day “Advanced Soil Health Systems” workshops for USDA-NRCS personnel in Indiana.

The field day and workshops were held in Wenning Farms, Greensburg, and Brocksmith Farms, Vincennes, Indiana, respectively from July 24 to 26, 2018.

On the first day (Field day), topics covered included: “What Insects where? Analysis of pit fall trap (insect trap) contents from fields in a soil health management system vs. conventionally tilled/managed fields”; “How healthy is my soil? In-field use of OSU Soil Health Test Kits to measure CEC, Active carbon, Aggregate stability, and other key assessments of soil health and function”; “What is working? What is in the plots? Reports on Wenning’s current experimental plot work”; and “What can I change? How different cropping practices can positively (or negatively) affect soil health and function?”

Dr. Rafiq Islam and Alan Sundermeier from The Ohio State University, Barry Fisher from USDA-NRCS National Soil Health Division, Stephanie McLain from USDA-NRCS Indiana State Soil Health Program, 

Joe Rorick from Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative, and Roger Wenning, Host and Soil Health Farmer of the Wenning Farms, spoke to the farmers and demonstrated several soil health field tests.

On the second and third day (Advanced soil health systems) workshop, the training provided opportunities to build applied soil health systems knowledge and skills. In-Field Soil Health Assessment Worksheet, Pit Fall Trap Assessments, Soil Health Test Kits - CEC, Active Carbon, Aggregate Stability, Rainfall Simulator - Getting full use of the demo, and Soil Health Test Kit for Interpretation of Results and Management suggestions to improve soil health. Topics are selected based upon training needs and current cropping concerns. Target audience for this training included ICP staff, farmer-mentors, agronomists, and other Ag professionals who have completed Core Trainings and/or previously attended Advanced Soil Health Systems Trainings. 

More than 100 people including farmers, educators, consultants, state and federal personnel, students, and non-profit personnel attended the field day and workshop. The participating educators received CCA credit for their professional development. Dr. Yogi Raut attended both field day and workshop to demonstrate the soil health test kit.