An innovative workshop on climate-smart agriculture emphasized soil health as a key element in carbon sequestration efforts. Several powerhouse organizations and companies hosted the one-of-a-kind event in St. Louis, called “C-Quest: Charting a Course for Climate Research in Agriculture,” and featured the Soil Health Partnership as a leader in helping farmers adopt progressive practices.
The ILSI Research Foundation, together with Monsanto Company, Soil Health Partnership, Washington University in St. Louis, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture, organized the Oct. 24 – 25 event. It focused on developing research targets for agricultural goals that:
- Support achievement of USDA’s “building blocks” for climate-smart agriculture;
- Integrate existing U.S. Midwest field research networks (like SHP) for climate adaptation; and
- Develop a research agenda to achieve a “carbon-neutral” agri-food system in the U.S. through a focus on soil carbon and soil health, including validation of soil carbon protocols.
The Soil Health Partnership is a farmer-led initiative of the National Corn Growers Assn. established in 2014. SHP Director Nick Goeser presented at the event, and NCGA chief executive officer Chris Novak also spoke to attendees.
“It’s exciting to see agricultural improvements that impact soil health recognized as an emerging opportunity to optimize productivity, sequester carbon and improve protection of our natural resources, like water,” Goeser said. “We’re honored to participate in this discussion, and to see farmers recognized whole-heartedly as a part of the solution.”
With more than 65 farm sites already enrolled in nine Midwestern states, the SHP is a leader in field-scale testing and measuring of management practices that improve soil health. These practices include:
- Growing cover crops to prevent erosion and nutrient losses,
- Implementing conservation tillage like no-till or strip-till, and
- Using advanced, science-based nutrient management techniques to reduce nutrient loss.
The SHP’s vision is advanced by initial and continuing funding from Monsanto, Walton Family Foundation, the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, NCGA and USDA. These early supporters helped form SHP’s operating and data collection structure, while recognizing common goals.