Soil Quality Network

Soil Quality Network

Soil Quality Network

Soil Quality Network screen shot

The Challenge

For better or worse, land management decisions impact soil health, which can be defined as “the capacity of a specific kind of soil to function, within natural or managed ecosystem boundaries, to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and support human health and habitation" (Karlan et al. 1997 Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 61:4-10).

Considering land management decisions, Oregon cherry grower Mike Omeg believes “we can do better by increasing the amount of biology in our soil by putting some diversity into the system.” Like Omeg, other regional farmers understood the need to address soil quality improvements. They, as well as agricultural professionals in Oregon’s Benton Soil and Water Conservation District, had expressed interest in using soil quality assessments for enhanced management. To assist farmers, ag professionals stated a need for more education and understanding of assessment tools; a need that could possibly be addressed in participating in a network. The network could capture the abundance of soil management experience and research.

Ultimately resulting in a growth of soil quality activities by ag professionals and confidence in teaching soil quality concepts, the Western SARE funded “The Soil Quality Network” (EW11-021) project by Teresa Matteson of the Benton SWCD was designed to:

  • Increase availability of soil quality information globally;
  • Increase knowledge and confidence of agricultural professionals to help farmers and implement soil quality management practices;
  • Increase knowledge of soil quality assessment tools;
  • Increase knowledge on how to provide soil quality education and outreach to local farmers and agricultural professionals;
  • Improve knowledge of site-specific soil quality constraints for agricultural professionals and farmers;
  • Analyze and report for future programmatic planning.

Searching for a Solution

To support on-the-ground soil quality improvements, Matteson and her team created plans for two workshops to train ag professionals; a database for rating soil samples, generating farmer reports, and documenting activities and efforts; and a website to serve as a central hub for communication and resource distribution. The purpose of the website was to provide agricultural professionals and farmers access to soil quality resources including: assessment tool information, models for various aspects of program development, soil quality related research, and lessons learned from programs that promote soil quality.

What was Accomplished

Based on the project’s outcomes, ag professionals and farmers gained access to a variety of soil quality resources.

One hundred and fifty-two people participated in the two workshops. Participants included agency personnel, farmers, students, consultants, faculty, extension, and more. Information about the two workshops can be found at smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/soil-quality-network/sqn-2012 and smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/soil-quality-network/2013-sqn-and-osss-winter-meeting. Among the many topics addressed were nutrient tracking tools, holistic potato management, ecosystem markets, and soil quality in intensive organic management systems.

The project team created a database that connected to an interactive Soil Quality Network map. The map can be found at oregonstate.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_3ehnu5pL7947gYR&Q_JFE=0. The map’s goals are to “build a world-wide network of soil quality enthusiasts, provide brief descriptions of soil quality activities, facilitate connections, and stimulate collaboration.” Matteson writes that the map “showcases global soil quality efforts including in-field practices, research, assessment, technical and financial assistance, and more.”

Lastly a website was created to serve as a central hub for communication and resource distribution. The website can be found at smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/soil-quality-network/sqn-2012, as well as bentonswcd.org/programs/soil-quality/soil-quality-network/. The website is full of resources such as the workshop presentations, listing of additional resources, evaluation data, and upcoming events. 

Participants in the SQN reported teaching more about soil quality; working with farmers on cover crop trials, research, on-farm implementation, incentive programs, and technical assistance to understand nutrient contribution from cover crops for reduced fertilizer inputs; and improving their knowledge and understanding of soil function and soil health assessments. Matteson recommended that future soil quality conferences be held in Wyoming, Idaho, and the Tri-Cities in Washington; at UC Davis in California and at OSU in Corvallis; and the west side of Portland.

Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) EW11-021, The Soil Quality Network .

Product specs
Location: Oregon | West
 

2016 Annual Report

For the first time, we are sharing a yearly snapshot of our work. The stories provided here typify the creative, participatory and integrated research Western SARE annually funds – led by land grant institution researchers and graduate students, Extension and other ag professionals, and nonprofit leaders in full partnership with producers.