Cultivating Resiliency

Celebrating SHP's Accomplishments

Building Soil Health in the Real World

About Soil Health Partnership

John-Mesko-Sep2019

Founded in 2014, SHP was developed by a diverse group of organizations that had a shared vision of developing a farmer-led research network to measure the impacts of implementing soil health practices on working farms. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Bayer and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) – alongside the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) – came together to turn this vision into reality.

The SHP network spanned across 16 states and included partner organizations at the federal, state and county levels. SHP grew from 17 research sites in 2014 to a network of 200+ research sites representing more than 7,000 acres.

SHP’s team of regional field managers worked alongside farmers to design and implement experiments in fields across North America, and collaborated with the organization’s science, operations and communications team to amplify our findings in the agricultural community and beyond.

John Mesko

Senior Director

Senior Director's Message

Since the beginning, SHP has been on a mission to determine the economic and environmental impact of conservation practices, and to communicate the importance of soil health to farmers and the agriculture community. I'm proud to say we've been successful. In carrying out this mission, we developed best-in-class on-farm research protocols, farmer engagement strategies, and an elite suite of communications channels to tell the story, including webinars, blog posts, social media, podcasts and more. We’ve also released several key findings, including 2019 and 2020 cover crop planting reports, two published research papers, several important webinars and a study on the economic impact of conservation practices on farms.

The knowledge developed at SHP lives on through its staff, most of whom are taking their unique expertise and experience into various corners of the soil health and conservation world. Wherever they each land, I am confident they will apply the same professionalism, hope, and passion displayed at SHP – and in the process make even greater contributions.

The impact of SHP will also live on through our dataset, which will be shepherded by two current staff members in a partnership with the University of Minnesota GEMS Platform, eventually rendering this invaluable data available to the community for further analysis and leveraged for even better tools for farmers.

SHP has been a true partnership with the agriculture community. On behalf of the Soil Health Partnership team, thank you to all the farmers, sponsors, supporters and donors who contributed time, money, energy, and passion to this cause over the past seven years.

The Impact of SHP

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At a Glance

Since its inception in 2014, SHP built a peer-to-peer network of farmers to explore the economic and environmental benefits and risks of soil heath practices.

Here is simply a snapshot of our achievements.

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research sites
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acres represented
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states in the SHP network
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million+ in funding
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funding partners
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soil sampling bags sent out
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team members
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communication outreach channels

On-Farm Engagement

SHP field managers supported farmers by providing expertise and insight while implementing on-farm trials. They also collaborated with the rest of our team to build the SHP dataset.

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As part of the SHP Field Check process, field managers collected soil health and agronomic data throughout the growing season, ranging from soil temperature and cover crop establishment to yield.

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The field team was heavily involved in partnering with SHP farmers to collect historic management data. These details helped contextualize new findings and lay the groundwork for future research.

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SHP field managers also worked with farmers and partner organizations to host field days, sharing findings from our trial fields and helping others learn about best practices for building soil health.

Science and Research

Especially in the last few years, we saw the momentum build around SHP's science and research efforts – where historic data and current findings came together to create valuable insights and recommendations for both our SHP growers and the broader agriculture community.

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The SHP Cover Crop Planting Report highlighted trends and observations specific to cover crop usage, gathered through our collection of historic management data from SHP farmers.

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To share the experiences of farmers implementing soil health practices, we developed three business cases, featuring SHP farmers Mike Buis (Indiana), Roger Zylstra (Iowa) and Tim Gottman (Missouri).

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We developed informational resources for nine soil health-related topics – ranging from soil health indicators and soil sampling to transitioning to no-till and grazing cover crops.

Communications and Outreach

Communications and outreach to farmers has been core to SHP's mission since the beginning. These efforts help ensure soil health management practices expand beyond just the farms of those in the program – creating a last impact on agriculture more broadly.

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The SHP website acted as a hub for all program resources, including our blog, webinars, business cases, reports and podcasts.

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SHP communicated with farmers and others interested in soil health on a daily basis through social media, our blog, The People of Soil Health podcast, an e-newsletter, our Soil Sessions webinars and a quarterly print newsletter to our SHP farmers.

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The SHP communications team worked with all members of the organization – whether that was launching virtual field days or creating a research report – to ensure farmers and others benefitted from our work.

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Our funding partners

In alphabetical order

  • Cargill
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research
  • General Mills
  • Illinois Corn Growers Association
  • Iowa Corn Growers Association
  • Michigan Milk Producers Association
  • Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council
  • Missouri Corn Growers Association
  • Missouri Fertilizer Control Board
  • Missouri Soybean Association
  • National Corn Growers Association
  • National Wheat Foundation
  • Nebraska Corn Growers Association
  • South Dakota Corn Growers Association
  • Tennessee State Department of Agriculture
  • The Fertilizer Institute
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • United Soybean Board
  • United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Services (USDA NRCS)
  • Vermillion Basin Water Conservation District
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Wolfe’s Neck Center

Want to learn more about conservation practices and farm finances?

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Dig into our report Conservation’s Impact on the Farm Bottom Line!