Field days to promote practices that improve soil health are underway in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, with at least a dozen more events planned in those states as well as Ohio and Nebraska. Hosted by the Soil Health Partnership, the field days demonstrate how changing certain practices, such as adding cover crops, can create lasting environmental benefits while potentially increasing farm productivity and income.
On Aug. 4, Don Elsbernd hosted local growers to a tour of his farm near Postville, Iowa to see what management practices he had implemented to improve the health of his soil. "Healthy soils help reduce soil erosion and allow us to more efficiently use our water and applied nutrients," said Elsbernd.
A field day in Harlan, Ind. on Aug. 12 drew more than 100 farmers and others interested in cover crop demonstrations. All told, the organizers estimated more than one million acres were represented at the event. Indiana SHP field managers Hans Kok and Dan Towery explained the project's mission, which is to catalyze enhanced agricultural sustainability and productivity by demonstrating and communicating the economic and environmental benefits of improved soil health.
"We stressed the benefits of cover crops to improve soil health, selecting appropriate cover crops, and establishment and termination timing," Kok said. "Farmers engaged in a lively discussion, sharing their cover crop experiences with each other."
In Lafayette, Indiana, SHP farmer Brent Bible plans on hosting a field day later this fall. He will discuss the impact of precise fertilizer placement, timing and quantity.
"We don't want to waste money or harm our soil by applying too much fertilizer," said Bible. "Being in the partnership gives you a perspective on improving soil health that looks at trends over time. It's a more disciplined approach. We are doing something unique and exciting with the Soil Health Partnership that will keep these fields sustainable and pumping out great yields long beyond my lifetime."
Field days were also held Monday (Aug. 17) at two farms, one hosted by David, Joe and Chase Brown in Decatur, Ill., and one by Leon Corzine in Assumption, Ill. The next ones are scheduled for Aug. 25 in Gilman, Iowa and Aug. 26 in Bloomington, Ill.
Although each field day concentrates on similar subject matter, the geography and local soil types guide the discussions. This gives testament to the diverse approach the Partnership takes in defining soil health.
An initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, the SHP works closely with diverse organizations including commodity groups, industry, foundations, federal agencies, universities and well-known environmental groups toward the common goal of improving soil health.
For a complete list of Soil Health Field Days, visit SoilHealthPartnership.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Events will be added throughout the summer.