INfield Advantage

With Indiana farmers looking for ways to improve soil health and water quality in their communities, Indiana’s On-Farm Network is gearing up for 2015 with a new look, new name and new partners. On-Farm Network, a program first developed by the Iowa Soybean Association, debuted in Indiana in 2010. After finding success in several Indiana counties, local ag industry partners adapted the program for Indiana farmers. In early 2015, the program was renamed INfield Advantage, referencing advantages for farmers who are interested in optimizing their inputs and validating their infield management practices.

Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts, Purdue Extension and the Indiana Conservation Partnership will continue to provide support for this newly renamed program.

A Different Kind Of “Healthcare” Taking Root On Indiana Farms

A Different Kind Of “Healthcare” Taking Root On Indiana Farms
By Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist
Thursday, October 31, 2013

There’s a potentially game-changing movement coming from America’s heartland. It has broad implications regarding the vitality of our farms, the health of our planet and our ability to feed more than 9 billion people who will be coming to dinner by the year 2050.

This movement continues to grow thanks to a different kind of “healthcare”—the health and care of our precious soil.  Previously, most of us have looked at soil in terms of its “quality.” But as one farmer observed recently, “Anything can have quality, but only living things can have health.”

So while it might seem like a trivial word-choice important only to those that work in the marketing department, the focus on “soil health” verses “soil quality” reflects a fundamental shift in the way we think about and are caring for our nation’s soil.

Talk to any farmer working to improve the health of the soil and he or she will likely tell you that the “ah-ha” moment came when they realized that soil isn’t just an inactive growing medium. In fact, the soil is alive and teaming with trillions of microorganisms and fungi that are the foundation of an elegant, symbiotic ecosystem.

This new reality has quietly brought about an agricultural revolution as more and more farmers in Indiana and throughout the nation are harvesting a wide range of benefits—on and off the farm—by improving soil health.  From every angle—business, production, sustainability, and environmental—managing for soil health makes sense!

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently launched a new education campaign titled “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” to help more farmers discover the basics and benefits of soil health—and to encourage the adoption of soil health-improving practices like cover cropping, no-till and diverse crop rotations.

The journey to improving soil health has its challenges. Every farm is different and has its own set of unique resource issues. Fortunately, our nation’s farmers are innovative, courageous and tenacious. NRCS is committed to assist these soil health pioneers—and to help make their farms more productive, resilient and profitable along the way.

As we face mounting production, climate and sustainability challenges, I believe there is no better time to make a long-term commitment to improve the health of our living and life-giving soil.

The promise of our future depends on it.

Jane Hardisty is the State Conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Indiana. For more information on soil health visit www.in.nrcs.usda.gov

Indiana Natural Resource Conservation Service

6013 Lakeside Boulevard

Indianapolis, IN 46278

317.295.5801

317.341.0310 Mobile

 

Featured Soil Health Event

Annual Conservation Tillage Meeting: Nov. 1, Moore’s Hill, IN

The Marshall Alford Farm has effectively set up controlled traffic zones:  field traffic is contained in the same pattern year after year – a practice that really shone when measuring penetration resistance (compaction).  combined with nearly 30 years of no-till and 20 years working with cover crops, Alford shows just how well soil health practices can benefit a region known for its tight, wet soils.

Register at www.alfordfieldday.eventbrite.com.

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CCSI Mentoring Program

Mike Plumer (back to camera) meets with farmer Randy Ennis (in overalls) as part of the CCSI Mentoring program. Photo by Pike Co SWCD

Mike Plumer (back to camera) meets with farmer Randy Ennis (in overalls) as part of the CCSI Mentoring program. Photo by Pike Co SWCD

Recognizing the fact that sometimes the best assistance comes from people who have “been there, done that,” CCSI launched a Mentoring Program in 2012.

The program is designed to put producers in touch with farmer-mentors and/or consultants for one-on-one technical assistance to help implement practices and systems that can lead to improved soil health.

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CCSI and the Dubois and Wabash County SWCDs

sample 1 May 8, 2013 (2)As Indiana Conservation Partners, the State’s 92 Soil and Water Conservation Districts are each part of the team that helps to deliver information, training, and technical assistance to growers and landowners.  Because of unique opportunities, the Wabash and Dubois County SWCDs were each asked to take a more involved role in the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative Regional Hub Program.

Dubois County SWCD, because of its partnership with Vincennes University to develop the Land Stewardship Initiative at the school’s Jasper Campus.  Through the Land Stewardship Initiative, VUJC cropland is managed by the SWCD to promote, demonstrate, and evaluate soil health practices.  The group’s efforts also extend to conversion of manicured lawns to wildlife and pollinator –friendly warm season grass and forb mixtures as well as managing woodlands to control invasive species and improve timber stands. Combined with state-of-the-art learning facilities, VUJC provides a perfect location for conservation field days and trainings.

Susi Soil Sampling May 2, 2013 A

Wabash County SWCD also brings a unique soil health investigation, demonstration, and learning opportunities through its management of the Wabash County Farm (former Poor Farm).  As a true working farm, the 152-acre site includes working cropland, woodlands, streams, ponds and wetlands – all of which are readily accessible and easily utilized for conservation training. The SWCD’s partnership with Wabash County government insures the appropriateness of the site for long-term demonstrations and research.

For more information on the VUJC Land Stewardship Initiative:
http://www.duboisswcd.org/dcswcd/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=169&Itemid=230

For more information about the Wabash County Farm:
http://wabashswcd.org/county-farm
http://www.wabashswcd.org/main/page_county_farm_county_farm_history.html