FFAR Grant Provides Technical Training to Enhance Soil Health
- Soil Health
COLUMBIA (January 19, 2021) – Cover crops are a variety of plants such as legumes and grasses that can be used to improve soil health and water quality, and limit soil erosion. While there are many programs that train farmers how to use cover crops, there is a need for technical training for industry agronomists and other farm advisors who influence farmers’ management decisions. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $284,436 Seeding Solutions grant to the University of Missouri to provide regionally customized cover crop training to industry farm advisors across the US. The Walton Family Foundation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, North Carolina State University and American Seed Trade Association collectively provided $284,601 in matching funds for a $569,037 total investment.
Nutrient-rich soils are essential to growing healthy, flavorful food, and cover crops can help preserve those nutrients. More training on how to effectively use cover crops would increase their use. This grant will improve connectivity between private sector farm advisors and farmers for consistent cover crop management across the board.Sally Rockey, Ph.D.
Cover crops keep soil covered, provide living roots post-harvest, improve diversity of both plants and soil and minimize soil disturbance. Yet, according to the USDA Agriculture Census of 2017, less than 10 percent of US cropland used cover crops. To promote cover crop benefits and encourage increased adoption, University of Missouri scientists and collaborators led by Dr. Rob Myers are conducting regionally customized cover crop and soil health training for industry farm advisors. By having consistent training across the industry, farmers receive the best support for soil health management.
University of Missouri researchers are developing cover crop training modules for senior agronomists with the help of private industry, government agencies and the four regional cover crop councils. These regionally focused trainings are starting with cover crops in the Midwest. The modules are supplemented with train-the-trainer programming to help the agronomists share this knowledge of cover crop use with staff at their companies.
Dr. Myers stated, “Cover crops have great potential to improve soil health and sequester soil carbon, while providing many other benefits such as weed control. By helping industry farm advisors have access to the latest information on cover crops, we feel farmers will ultimately benefit as they get management guidance from their private sector fertilizer and seed dealers and consulting agronomists.”
In addition to the direct technical training, the training modules will be available online at no cost to interested organizations. The train-the-trainer model allows organizations to adjust the materials to their needs and make extensive in-house use of these educational resources over time.
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.