Soil Health FAQs

What is the Soil Health Partnership?

The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health, benefiting both farmer profitability and the environment. The SHP uses science and data to work alongside farmers in adopting practical agricultural practices that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the farm. Administered by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the partnership has more than 220 working farms enrolled in 15 states and one Canadian province. The SHP brings together broad and diverse partners to work towards common goals across the public, private and NGO sectors.

Our work has been featured in the The New York Times and many other media outlets. Please reference those media highlights, our website, and SHP hosted communication channels to find out more.

What is the SHP mission?

SHP partners with farmers as they try new soil health management practices with the goal of improving soil health.

We collect on-farm data over time that enable farmers to improve economic and environmental sustainability today, and for generations to come.

Who funds the SHP?

SHP brings together broad and diverse partners to work towards common goals. Administered by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the SHP’s vision is driven by initial and continuing funding and guidance from our sustaining partners and funders. Sustaining partners include  NCGA, Bayer, the Environmental Defense Fund,Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, National Wheat Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy. We have many funders but those featured here, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, The General Mills Foundation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Walton Family Foundation, all provide over $50,000 in support.

View our full partner list.

What is SHP’s definition of sustainable farming?

Agriculture faces mounting challenges that must be addressed while growing food sustainably for a growing planet. Soil is a priceless resource that requires care, and protecting it results in significant benefits to water and air. Sustainability is about protecting resources, increasing resiliency and about long-term feasibility and adoption which includes economic viability. Our goal is to support farmers in achieving this broad range of sustainability.

What ag practices does the Soil Health Partnership support or encourage?

We work with farmers to identify their soil health concerns and identify which practices would be most practical and beneficial to incorporate into their existing management which includes these practices:

  • Cover Crops: Growing them can improve water infiltration, and prevent erosion and unwanted nutrient losses.   
  • Conservation Tillage: Implementing no-till, reduced till,  or strip-till can improve soil structure by disturbing the land less.
  • Advanced Nutrient Management: Science-based nutrient management techniques, like split-application, can reduce nutrient loss to air and water.

A trained SHP field manager works with full-partner farmer sites every step of the way, typically while collaborating with  the active agronomist on farm.

This process allows farmers to customize how they implement soil health improvements on their farm and include important partners in their operation already. Our rigorous data collection process helps evaluate how well the various management practices are performing for soil health improvement and economic feasibility.

Why attend a Soil Health Partnership field day or other SHP event?

The goal of an SHP event, such as  the many field days we host, is to engage with farmers and other experts at a local level. Each SHP event is planned with guidance from local farmers to help provide expert speakers and information most relevant to that community.

The organization also hosts the Soil Health Summita conference open to farmers, agronomists, ag and food companies, commodity groups and others wanting to engage in high-level soil health learning and networking.

SHP events provide a venue for networking among farmers about how to most effectively adapt management practices for their local growing conditions and cropping systems.

Check out our Field Days and Events page to find one near you!

Do you have evidence that healthy soil, as a result of more sustainable farming, yields better crop production and quality, and is more profitable for farmers than traditional methods?

Showing data-based evidence of the economic, as well as the environmental impact of sustainable ag practices, is at the very heart of the Soil Health Partnership’s mission. While long-term data takes time by its nature, SHP has a plan in place to get the most out of the data collected so far, processing early data, digging into the analyses and sharing information such as how aggregate stability evolves over time or how specific choices impact farm economics.

As a long-term research program that started in 2014/2015, SHP views 2018 as a pivotal year. The 2018 harvest data, collected on 80+ fields, will yield the first statistically significant number of farms to complete year-over-year data to show the effects of these conservation practices. For enrolled SHP growers, this data paired with yearly soil sampling results will give a robust view on how their new farm management has impacted their soils and impacted their farm economics.

Long-term, SHP will publish peer-reviewed research and insights, and share it widely with farmers, the broader agricultural community, food companies and consumers.

What have you learned from early data?

Initial analyses indicate that a diverse set of practices results in numerous benefits for farmers including yield and economics. We are seeing that the impact of the soil health-promoting practices varies greatly by the soil type and geography. We are focusing on providing a more detailed view of how this changes over time. As we continue to develop our data collection and insights, we can start sharing the results with our network. Beyond data learnings, we also share inquisitive learnings, staff knowledge, and management tips on our SHP hosted communication channels: Digging in Blog, Beneath the Topsoil Newsletter, Soil Sessions Webinars, and SoilSmart Podcasts.

How will the results of this project help farmers everywhere make decisions?

We believe long-term, peer-reviewed data from real, working farms is one of the best ways to institute wide scale change in agriculture. It’s been the primary missing piece from the soil health movement, until now. Data will change hearts, minds and business plans, leading to true agricultural transformation.