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13. Darrick Steen – SHP Helps Farmers Dig Into Soil Science

Cover crops, Industry partnerships

Darrick Steen, Director of Environmental Programs for Missouri Soybean and Missouri Corn, says his pathway to an interest in soil health starts with a turkey farm and a father involved in state politics. He grew up watching heated political and regulatory debates around animal agriculture and the environment. Eventually, he found his way to soil health and, as he describes it, “improving and maintaining our soil resources.”

Steen says that Missouri Corn and Soybean primarily work to make farmers aware of the issues and challenges in front of them. In the environmental area, this means helping farmers understand the threats, but also the opportunities to take advantage of. 

One of those opportunities is the Missouri Strip Trial Program, born in the Missouri nutrient reduction strategy, which focuses on the application of cover crops and how to manage cover crops in corn and soybean rotations.

Another is working with the Soil Health Partnership.

“The Strip Trial Program is looking at the application of cover crops, the impact on yield and how to fine tune the use of cover crops. The Soil Health Partnership is diving into the science of what is going on in the soil. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered about soil,” Steen said.

The important questions include: 

  • What are the things in the soil and in the fields that need to be monitored? 
  • What should farmers be paying attention to? 
  • There are too many variables to be focused on everything, so what recommendations will make the biggest impact?

Steen said there is always a little overlap on the programs, but SHP has a unique perspective on the soil science side that is needed to accomplish farmers’ overall sustainability goals.

Some of the farmers Steen works with get concerned that they cannot make changes quickly enough to meet their soil health goals. But Steen’s advice rings true: sometimes the most important things take time.

“I’m confident that the next generation will make some dramatic improvements on the farm and will ensure that we feed our country and feed the world, as well as make our environment a better place,” he said.

Listen in to the rest of this interview above or in your favorite podcast player.