Building long-term data by its very nature takes time, but early indicators are promising on the relationship between soil health and economic, productivity and environmental gains in agriculture.


That was the message delivered from the Soil Health Partnership, a project to make agriculture more productive and sustainable through healthy soil, at its annual meeting.


About 185 Ag scientists, industry leaders, environmentalists, water quality experts and enrolled farmers discussed their efforts at SHP’s third annual Soil Health Summit in Des Moines, Iowa Jan. 19-20.


Roger Zylstra, a corn and soybean grower in Lynnville, Iowa, told the group about his results since being enrolled in the program. He practices no-till and grows cover crops like cereal rye.


“On our farm, early results show we’re making some progress. This year we noticed a definite suppression of weeds in our soybeans,” Zylstra said. “It’s too soon to say much about yield improvement, but that marked improvement in late season pigweed emergence made a difference and was obviously connected to cover crops.”


Zylstra presented at the summit alongside David Muth, one of the founders of the Ames-based company AgSolver. Farmers enrolled in SHP have access to the company’s software tools to analyze a field’s agronomic and economic performances side-by-side, and compare potential management scenarios.


Other speakers included Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Working Lands Michael Doane and Purdue Agricultural Economics Professor Wallace Tyner.


Small breakout sessions with enrolled farmers provided the opportunity for learning from each other and giving feedback on the SHP program.