2017 Soil Health Conference | Program

Thursday, February 16

8:00 am Registration
9:00 am Opening Session
Welcome and Opening Remarks

Dr. Sarah Nusser, Vice President for Research, Iowa State University

Keynote: Barriers to Advancing Soil Health Management

Steven Shafer, Chief Scientific Officer, Soil Health Institute
The advancement of soil health has many challenges, ranging from on the farm, to agricultural policies, to resource limitations for research. These barriers can be overcome by attention to the role of soil in providing the essential base for the agricultural economy, food security, and environmental quality. Advancing the adoption of systems and management strategies that improve soil health will have many benefits across the entire agricultural enterprise.

Keynote: Economics of Soil Health

David Archer, Agricultural Economist, USDA-ARS, Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory
The direct and indirect links between soil health and
economic outcomes are important issues for convincing farmers to adopt management systems that enhance both soil health and economic returns. The relationship between soil health, productivity, and environmental benefits needs to be redefined to reflect the big picture of outcomes at the field and landscape or state levels for the sustainable agricultural production systems.

11:30 am

Lunch: The Importance of Soil Health: In it Together

Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture

Concurrent Session A:

12:45 pm Soil Health and Crop Productivity

Brian Wienhold, Coordinator and Research Leader, Agroecosystem Management Research, USDA-ARS
MODERATOR: Theo Gunther, Iowa Soybean Association
Balancing crop yield and soil health improvement through the implementation of conservation systems is essential for sustainable agriculture system. Utilizing the combination of conservation practices such as NT and cover crops in a creative way to optimize yield performance and economic return can be achieved while improving soil health outcomes.

Crop Diversity and Soil Health

Marshall McDaniel, Assistant Professor, Iowa State University
MODERATOR: Rick Bednarek, USDA-NRCS
The diversity of plants in cropping systems is an essential factor for improving soil health. The integration of more than one crop, either through an extended crop rotation or inclusion of cover crops, can enhance soil productivity (often called the “rotation effect”). What underlies this rotation effect are improvements in soil physical, chemical, and especially biological aspects of soil health.

Improving Soil Physical Properties and Effect on Water Quality

Tom Sauer, Supervisory Research Soil Scientist, National Laboratory for Agriculture and Environment, USDA-ARS
MODERATOR: Martin Adkins, USDA-NRCS
Improvement in the soil physical, chemical, and biological function through conservation systems can lead to the reduction of soil erosion and ultimately improve water quality. Management practices that increase soil loss and nutrient loading to water systems directly affect soil health by degrading soil properties such as soil organic matter, phosphorus, and sediment loss. Improving soil water retention is key for building resilient soils and improving crop production.

Evaluation of the Solvita/Haney Soil Health Tests Response across Historical Nitrogen Rates and Crop Rotations

John Sawyer, Professor, Iowa State University
MODERATOR: Angie Rieck-Hinz, ISU Extension and Outreach
A successful soil health test should be reflective of historical crop management practices. The Solvita and Haney soil health tests, and components of the tests, were evaluated using soil samples from multiple long-term nitrogen rate by crop rotation trial sites in Iowa. Soil health test results were compared with soil nitrogen and carbon analyses, sensitivity for effects of nitrogen rate and crop rotation, and relation to optimal nitrogen fertilization.

Concurrent Session B:

1:45 pm

Agroforestry for Improving Soil Health and Productivity

Ranjith Udawatta, Associate Research Professor, The Center for Agroforestry, University of Missouri, Columbia
MODERATOR: Theo Gunther, Iowa Soybean Association
Agroforestry is the integration of perennials being trees, shrubs, and other vegetation into crop production systems in different forms within the landscape. The use of this concept can provide a wide range of benefits for crop productivity, ecosystems services, wildlife habitat, and most importantly, benefits for soil sustainability and water quality improvement.

Practices for Sustaining Soil Health Biology

Kristine Nichols, Chief Scientist, Rodale Institute
MODERATOR: Mark Rasmussen, Leopold Center
Soil biology is an essential driver for soil health. Therefore, the inclusion of management systems that enhance biodiversity in modern agriculture systems cannot only improve soil health attributes such as, increase nutrient cycling capacity, but also contribute additional ecosystem services.

The Economics of Soil Health and Water Quality

Tom Buman, Chief Executive Officer of AGREN
MODERATOR: Jeff Mullen, Deere and Company
Understanding the significance of improved soil health to farmers, and society at large, is a new challenge. It is assumed that improved soil health will lead to better economics for the farmer and improved water quality for society. Determining the relationship between soil health, economics, and water quality will require the combination of research, precision agriculture, and big data.

Field Indicators or Observations for a Quick Soil Health Assessment

Doug Peterson, Soil Health Specialist, USDA-NRCS
MODERATOR: Jason Wattonville, Deere and Company
Field observations are the first diagnostic approach for determining the level of management practices’ effects on soil health. These observations can mostly be plant or soil physical characteristics. These field assessments need to be followed by a thorough investigation and corrective measures
that should include a wide range of management practices to improve soil health.

2:35 pm Break and Poster Session

Concurrent Session C:

3:05 pm

Farmer Perspective on Management Practices for Building Soil Health (Part 1) (Part 2)

Steve Berger, Washington County Farmer
MODERATOR: Jamie Benning, ISU Extension and Outreach
Farmers’ experience with different management systems such as tillage and crop rotation can provide a practical approach for implementing systems that are capable of improving soil health and other related environmental services. The practicality and economics of any system are paramount to the adoption of that system for enhancing soil health.

Effects of Chemicals and Cropping Systems on Soil Biology

Michael Lehman, Research Microbiologist, North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS
MODERATOR: Mark Rasmussen, Leopold Center
The need for fertilizer use to enhance soil nutrient pools to achieve good crop yield is essential to modern agriculture. Specific management practices, including cover cropping, that increase the activities of soil microorganisms to fix N and mobilize P and micronutrients may reduce annual inputs
required to maintain soil fertility over the long term. An overall management strategy that encourages a robust, active, and diverse soil microbial community should also provide increased resilience to stresses (weather, pests) in comparison to approaches that inhibit soil microorganisms.

Soil Erosion: Leading Cause for Damaging Soil and Water Quality

Rick Cruse, Professor, Iowa State University
MODERATOR: Martin Adkins, USDA-NRCS
Soil erosion, natural or man-made through non-conservation practices has significant effect on degrading soil productivity, food security and environmental quality. Soil erosion has been documented to reduce soil organic matter, biodiversity, and food production with many conventional systems throughout the world. In humid areas as it is in Iowa, soil erosion is a leading cause of water quality deterioration.

Basic Field Indicators for Assessing Soil Health

Mahdi Al-Kaisi, Professor, Iowa State University and Rick Bednarek, State Soil Scientist, USDA-NRCS
MODERATOR: David Chaffin, CCA Board, Iowa
Field assessment of soil health is an essential and first diagnostic step for evaluating the effect of certain management practices on soil health. These field observations can include specific and easy-to-do tests in the field to examine the soil biological, physical and chemical properties that alert farmers and agronomists for further investigation by using a laboratory approach if needed.

Concurrent Session D:

4:05 pm

How do Farmers Learn about Soil Health and How to Improve it
Soil Health Learning Experiences

PANEL OF DISCUSSION: J. Arbuckle, Associate Professor, Iowa State University
FARMERS: Nathan Anderson and Paul Ackley, Practical Farmers of Iowa
MODERATOR: J. Arbuckle, Iowa State University
Farmers can learn about soil health from personal experiences and many different sources of information and these sources can change over time. In this panel session, farmers who have been working to improve soil health will discuss how they have learned how to manage for soil health and what sources of information and advice have been important to them. Extension Sociologist Dr. J. Arbuckle will kick off the panel with a brief presentation of survey research on farmer perspectives on soil health and preferred information sources, followed by a discussion with Iowa farmers about their experiences learning

Integrated Crop and Livestock Management Effects on Soil Health

John Hendrickson, Research Rangeland Management Specialist, Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS
MODERATOR: Mark Rasmussen, Leopold Center The integration of livestock in crop production systems is not a novel idea. The introduction of livestock into crop production can provide for potential nutrient cycling and some biological controls that only animals can provide. However, the impact
of such an integrated system on soil health can be both positive and negative depending on the type of animals and management practices.

The Value of Improving Soil Health to Improving Water Quality

Matt Helmers, Professor, Iowa State University
MODERATOR: David Chaffin, CCA Board, Iowa
Improvement in soil health attributes such as the increase in soil organic matter, which can lead to better water processing, storage, and reduction of surface run off can ultimately lead to a better water quality. The implementation of conservation practices such as cover crops, no-tillage, and keeping residue on the soil surface have dual benefits of improving soil health and water quality.

Agriculture Industry’s Role in Developing Metrics for Improving Soil Health

Debbie Reed, Executive Director, Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse Gas, Field to Market
MODERATOR: Martin Adkins, USDA-NRCS
The collaboration between the Agriculture industry, Academia and other entities is important for developing a practical approach for documenting and assessing soil health and management footprints. The collective efforts of basic and applied research and technology offered by such a collaboration is essential for developing the metric that will aid farmers in implementing best management practices for improving soil health.

5:00 pm Evening Reception and Poster Viewing

Friday, February 17

8:00 am Registration, Refreshments and Research and Education Posters
8:30 am

Day 2 Opening Session
Welcome and Opening Remarks

Dr. Kendall Lamkey, Department of Agronomy Chair, Iowa State University

Conservation Policy for Advancing Soil Health

David Lamm, National Soil Health Team Leader, USDANRCS
The advancement of soil health requires clear and unified national policy that articulates the mechanisms and incentives for implementing conservation systems that enhance soil health. It needs to account for changing conservation paradigms that are necessary to understand the impact that improving soil health has on the various components of agriculture policies as stated in the Farm Bill is essential for insuring a balanced approach between
economics and the application of conservation practices.

Concurrent Session E:

10:05 am

Farmers Panel: Perspectives on Management Practices for Soil Health Improvement
Cover Crop Photos

Wayne Fredericks, Ray Gaesser, and Kelly Tobin, Iowa Farmers
MODERATOR: Martin Adkins, USDA-NRCS
Farmers’ perspectives and experiences from an economic and practical standpoint are critical in highlighting what works and the challenges of management systems that are beneficial for building soil health. Farmers with a long history of adopting conservation systems and their experience in making such systems work economically and building soil health are valuable to their peers.

Integration of a System Approach for Improving Soil Health

Alan Franzluebbers, Ecologist, Plant Science Research, USDA-ARS
MODERATOR: Mark Rasmussen, Leopold Center
The use of a system approach to agriculture by considering a landscape or watershed approach is critical for having a greater impact in reducing the effect of intensified modern agricultural production systems on natural resources. The integration of sustainable intensification principles and current
technology may achieve such an approach.

Improving Yield and Soil Health in the Corn-Soybean Cropping System

Mike Castellano, Associate Professor, Iowa State University
MODERATOR: Marshall McDaniel, Iowa State University
There is a need to optimize corn and soybean cropping systems for maximum yield and environmental performance. This goal can be achieved with a systems approach that considers interactions between genetics, environment and management. Working within the corn-soybean cropping system, there are a number of opportunities to manage nutrient cycling for yield and soil and water quality outcomes.

Soil Health Institute Role in Advancing Soil Health

Wayne Honeycutt, President and CEO of the Soil Health Institute
MODERATOR: Doug Karlen, USDA–ARS
The Soil Health Institute was established in December 2015 to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement. The Institute is designed to move technology and knowledge from the research laboratory to the farm field–bringing together industry, farmers, ranchers, government agencies, scientists, and consumers toward the common goal of protecting and enriching our soils, our environment, and indeed, our lives.

Concurrent Session F:

11:05 am

Organic and Low Input Farming: Pros and Cons for Soil Health (Part 1) (Part 2)

Sharon Weyers, Soil Scientist, Soil Management Research, USDA-ARS
MODERATOR: Angie Rieck-Hinz, ISU Extension and Outreach
Organic and low input farming practices have both advantages and disadvantages in building soil health and maintaining productivity. Examining the effects of farming practices on soil health parameters can aid in developing whole system strategies that promote sustainability. Application of specific
farming practices that have positive outcomes on soil health should be emphasized.

Organic Amendments and Cropping System Diversification as Management Approaches for Improving Soil Health

Matt Liebman, Professor, Iowa State University
MODERATOR: Steve Berger, Washington County Farmer
It is well established that organic sources such as animal manures, compost materials, and plant residue are excellent sources for building soil health, particularly soil biology. The integration of animal manure or other organic sources can have dual benefits by providing nutrients and carbon sources for building the soil microbial community.

Managing Marginal Soils for Better Soil Health and Economic Returns

Dave Muth, Senior Vice President of Analytics, AgSolver
MODERATOR: Jamie Benning, ISU Extension and Outreach
Soil variability is a major factor in affecting soil productivity. Marginal soils within agriculture land, landscape or field levels need to be identified and managed differently, especially in row crop production agriculture. This approach can lead to the reduction in input costs for row crop production and
the utilization of marginal land for biomass production that enhances soil health, wildlife habitat, and other ecosystem services.

Evaluation of Soil Phosphorous Tests for Improving Soil Productivity and Soil Assessment Tools

Antonio Mallarino, Professor, Iowa State University
MODERATOR: Tracy Cameron, Taygold Cooperative
Soil health assessment tools should include phosphorus (P) measurements that appropriately reflect how levels of this nutrient affect crop growth and water quality impacts while being simple and economical to perform. This presentation will discuss general criteria for P soil health assessments and
will share results of ongoing Iowa research to study how soil P tests included in existing soil health tools compare when assessing P sufficiency for crops and impacts on water quality.

12:00 pm Lunch
1:15 pm

Closing Session

MODERATOR: Dr. John Lawrence, Associate Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Iowa State University

The Link between Productivity, Soil Health, Water Quality, and Economics

Jerry Hatfield, Director, National Laboratory of Agriculture and Environment, USDA-ARS
The link between productivity, soil health, water quality, and economics is essential for achieving balanced and sustainable agriculture production systems. Management practices in agriculture should be implemented to reduce the increasingly expensive production cost, yet in most times cause unintended effects on soil health and water quality.

Farmer Message on Why We Need to Improve Soil Health (Economics, Productivity, and Environment)

Seth Watkins, Southwest Iowa Farmer
Farmers’ views and experiences are essential to a balanced approach to production and protection of soil and water resources. The implementation of conservation systems by many farmers have their environmental and economic rewards, but it requires time and a set of skills only farmers can understand from practical perspectives and what it takes to achieve that. Thus, farmer-shared experience can help and encourage others to adopt such practices.

2:50 pm Closing Comments
3:00 pm Conference Adjourns