2016 Soil Health Conference | Program

Tuesday, February 02

8:00 am Registration
8:45 am Opening Session
Conference Welcome

Dr. Wendy Wintersteen, Endowed Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Iowa State University and Director, Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station

Keynote: The State of Soil Health—A National Perspective

Dr. Jo Handelsman, Associate Director for Science. Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House (Invited)

Keynote: Strategies for Enhancing Health of Our Nation’s Soils

Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, Deputy Chief for Science and Technology, USDA-NRCS, Washington, DC.
Enhancing soil health may allow us to meet our growing population’s need for food, while simultaneously addressing some of our most pressing natural resource issues (e.g. resilience to extreme weather, water quality/quantity, wildlife/pollinator habitat, rural economies, bioenergy production and others). Strategies to enhance soil health cover the full range of research, education, and adoption needs that may be best implemented across public and private partnerships; all the while keeping farmers and ranchers as our central focus.

10:15 am Break

Breakout Session I

10:40 am Basics of Soil Health

Doug Peterson, USDA-NRCS
Doug will share the basic principals of soil health and how using them will impact natural resource processes.

Managing to Enhance Soil Health

Dr. Jane Johnson - ARS-USDA
Healthy soils are critical for meeting current and future societal demands. Management strategies that protect the soil against erosion, build soil organic matter and promote nutrient cycling are ways to enhance soil health. Keeping soils covered and judicious use of agrochemicals are akin to us “humans” needing to eat healthy diets and exercise to promote our health.

Breakout Session II

10:40 am Soil Management Effects on Soil Health and Implications for Sustainability and Productivity

Dr. Brian Wienhold, ARS-USDA
Soil management affects many soil properties and functions associated with soil health. This presentation will discuss the effect of several management practices on soil health and implications of those effects on sustainability and productivity.

Microbial Communities and Soil Health

Dr. Michael Lehman, ARS-USDA
The diversity of soil microbial communities will be described and related to the valuable services that microorganisms perform for agriculture. The influence of agricultural management on beneficial soil microbes and their processes will be demonstrated using research findings.

Breakout Session III

10:40 am Soil Health and Ecosystem Services in Alternative and Perennial Cropping Systems

Dr. Cindy Cambardella, ARS-USDA
This presentation will explore the environmental impacts of alternative and perennial cropping systems, including effects on water quality, water retention, carbon sequestration, and soil health.

Farmers Perspectives on Soil Health

Dr. J. Arbuckle, ISU Sociology
The concept of soil health is being integrated into soil and water conservation programming and is a growing topic of conversation in the agricultural press and among agricultural stakeholders. However, little is known about farmer attitudes toward and knowledge about soil health and potential soil health management strategies. This presentation summarizes survey research on farmer perspectives on soil health, in particular 1) awareness of soil health as a concept, 2) understanding of and evaluation of key measures of soil health, 3) opinions about the impacts of healthy soils, and 4) perceived capacity to manage for soil health.

12:00 pm Luncheon: Why Soil Health, Why Now?

Jim Gulliford, Executive Director of Soil and Water Conservation Society
The luncheon presentation will speak to the importance of soil health in relationship to agriculture productivity, food security, and environmental protection.

Breakout Session I

1:30 pm Prairie Strips for Soil Conservation and More

Dr. Lisa Schulte Moore, ISU
Strategically establishing small amounts of perennial vegetation within row crop fields can help farmers achieve soil, water, and other conservation goals. This presentation focuses on prairie strips as a cost-effective tool in the overall conservation toolbox.

Managing and Monitoring Cover Crop Effects on Soil Health

Dr. Joel Gruver, Western Illinois University
This presentation will explore the effects of cover crops on soil health with an emphasis on management strategies for enhanced soil function and measurable parameters for monitoring management effects. The presenter will share information derived from literature review, personal experience and farmer interviews.

Breakout Session II

1:30 pm Soil Health as the Foundation for Climate Resilience

Dr. Jerry Hatfield, USDA-ARS
Variation in crop productivity is related to lack of soil water or nutrients in the soil and directly related to the quality of the soil. Improving the soil through enhanced biological activity and sequestering carbon to improve water holding capacity, aggregate structure, and nutrient cycling will benefit crop production. The increased functionality of the soil will provide benefits to crops to offset the impact of weather variation and create a more resilient production system.

Supply-Chain Sustainability and Soil Health

Allison Thomson, Field to Market
Companies and organizations from across the commodity crop supply chain in the United States are developing sustainability metrics to promote, measure and report on continuous improvement of specific environmental outcomes through the Field to Market alliance. The presentation will cover recent efforts by Field to Market to integrate concepts of soil health into existing metrics, and to engage in partnership with the research community to further improve our understanding of the role of soil health in sustainable agriculture.

Breakout Session III

1:30 pm Microbial Communities and Soil Health

Dr. Michael Lehman - ARS-USDA
The diversity of soil microbial communities will be described and related to the valuable services that microorganisms perform for agriculture. The influence of agricultural management on beneficial soil microbes and their processes will be demonstrated using research findings.

Strategies for Soil Health Promotion

Dr. Nicholas Goeser - Corn Growers Association
Improvements in soil health have been shown to improve agricultural productivity and environmental outcomes. However, inconsistent soil health and outreach and messaging has led to some confusion about the benefits from soil health amongst farmers and agricultural service providers. Collaboration and consistency in development of soil health communications and education are essential to increasing adoption of conservation practices to improve soil health.

3:00 pm Break and Viewing of Posters
3:40 pm Day 1 Wrap Up: Soil Health Activities in Iowa – Reflections on What We Have Heard and Next Steps

Dr. Doug Karlen, USDA-ARS
A summary of the presentations and an overall charge to the participants to help advance the science of soil health across our state and the nation.

4:30 pm Adjourn
5:00 pm Poster Reception

Cash Bar and Poster session/networking

Wednesday, February 03

8:00 am State Soil Health Strategy and Future Activities Overview
8:15 am Session I: Network and Organization of Soil Health

Moderator: Dr. Rick Cruse, ISU
During this session the attendees will brainstorm and produce a set of recommendations and future plan of work for advancing soil health network in the state. A moderator will organize and summarize the finding of the session.

Session II: Building of Outreach and Communication Capability for the Soil Health Platform

Moderator: Dr. Lois Wright Morton, ISU
During this session the attendees will develop a multifaceted approach for sustainable education and outreach platform within the state by developing an education program that will keep soil health as a major priority in agriculture management practices.

Session III: Future Research and Outreach Needs

Moderator: Marty Adkins, NRCS-USDA
During this session the attendees will develop a plan of work for funding and support for sustainable long-term effort for soil health research and education within the state. A moderator will lead and organize the discussion.

10:15 am Break
10:45 am Reports from the Three Groups
12:15 pm Adjourn

(No lunch provided)