Making research available to build healthy soils

Nov. 8, 2016
Seedling with soil cut away

Healthy Soil Healthy Environment is a new Ohio State University Extension signature program that will create a soil health education and outreach network comprised of Ohio State researchers and OSU Extension faculty and educators. The program’s long-term goal is to help improve Ohio’s soil health and environment by educating farmers, youth and the general public. “Soil health” refers to the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans and maintains environmental quality. Thus, healthy soil can increase farm productivity while reducing negative environmental impacts. During the past half century, Ohio State researchers have developed practical solutions that farmers could use to better manage their soils. Examples include long-term no-till studies in Wooster, recent cover crop studies in Piketon and long-term soil drainage research at Hoytville. This vast knowledge base will be made available through the Healthy Soil Healthy Environment program.

Maintaining a healthy and productive soil is the foundation of sustainable agriculture. However, a majority of producers, youth in agriculture, and urban gardeners are unaware of the importance of soil health and how to manage it.. The OSU Extension Healthy Soil Healthy Environment signature program is intended to bridge this knowledge gap by providing tools and curricula related to soil health, and its assessment and management in different agricultural settings. The signature program team will develop factsheets and other educational materials for continued education on soil health. The team will conduct trainings, workshops and field days focused on practical ways of sustainable soil management. The team is also developing curriculum that could be incorporated into statewide 4-H and other youth education programs such as the Junior Master Gardener Volunteer program. The program researchers are working together to develop a comprehensive soil health assessment test for Ohio that will help farmers test their soils and make important decisions related to fertilizer applications, tillage practices and crop rotations.

This signature program will serve a variety of clientele, including: farmers (traditional, organic, no-till, sustainable or low-input), landowners, 4-H youth, urban gardeners (youth and adults), Master Gardener Volunteers, crop consultants, agricultural retailers, salesmen, underserved populations, and the general public.