2021 Soil Health Forum

(03/17/21) ST. JOSEPH, La. — The soil that lies beneath our feet was on the forefront of event attendees’ minds during a successful Soil Health Forum that was held at the LSU AgCenter Northeast Research Station on March 17.

The forum was supported by the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation and National Resource Conservation Service. The Patrick F. Taylor Foundation awarded a grant to the LSU AgCenter to fund a four-year research project on reducing nutrient runoff from crop fields.

Field days and forums, such as the one held recently in Tensas Parish, are a vital component of the success of ongoing research. “The field days are meant to provide information that farmers will use for decision making when they are developing plans for production” said Dr. Lisa Fultz, a soil microbiologist with the LSU AgCenter. “The field walks in-particular provide real-world or research demonstrations of the practices we’re talking about, and give everyone an opportunity to see, touch, and feel these practices in real-time.”

Researcher Presenting in Field

Dr. Wink Alison, LSU AgCenter, presents perspectives on soil health in animal production. Photo by Rexanna Powers/LSU AgCenter.

Conservation-based field days are important, as Fultz pointed out, because they increase exposure of practices that in some cases, have been around for a long time, but have not been implemented in today’s production systems.

Soil Presentation

Representatives from NRCS demonstrated the differences in soil health between conventional-till and no-till. Photo by Rexanna Powers/LSU AgCenter.

“Some practices, like cover crops, were used extensively until the 1950’s, so much of the knowledge regarding their use may not apply to production practices systems of today,” she said. “The changes in agricultural practices have necessitated the adaptation and development of conservation practices that embrace the development of new cultivars and technologies like variable rate applications to develop robust systems.”

The event highlighted soil health but there were a variety of topics discussed throughout the day. In recent years, there has been a push from society for more sustainable practices, and according to Dennis Burns, an AgCenter agent and research coordinator at the Northeast Research Station near St. Joseph, the push will be consistent. “Conservation practices will become more important as part of participating in USDA farm programs,” said Burns. “Society is wanting more sustainable practices and this will put pressure on markets and ultimately producers.”

Researcher Presenting in Field

Dr. Rasel Parvej, LSU AgCenter, presented information about the benefits of nitrogen reference strips. Photo by Rexanna Powers/LSU AgCenter.

Best management practices come in a variety of forms – many of which producers in Louisiana are already implementing. The ultimate outcome, from the perspective of Fultz and other researchers, is to reduce soil, nutrient, and chemical losses to waterways whether they be local lakes, streams, and bayous, or further reaching like the Gulf of Mexico.

“One of the inherent ideas driving soil health is the ability of soil to continue to function as a vital living ecosystem to sustain plants, animals, and humans,” said Fultz. “By promoting and preserving healthy soils we ensure their ability to sustain production for future generations to continue to provide food and fiber to a growing population.”

3/16/2020 2:36:31 PM
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