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Projects

Learn more about the current projects from various coalition members.

Regional Soil Health Hubs

Building on the success of the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance model of farmers educating other farmers, this project aims to establish at least seven regional farmer-to-farmer hubs to share knowledge of soil health practices and increase local adoption rates of those practices.

 

Farmers have the practical experience to implement conservation practices and they understand how these techniques fit into the holistic goals of the farm.

 

The soil health hubs will bring these farmers together 3-4 times a year and create opportunities for them to network, share new ideas, discuss past challenges and lessons learned.

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The Chesapeake Bay watershed counties are identified in orange

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Penn State developed a new nitrogen recommendation tool allows a user to input site-specific soil and cover crop data and calculate a fertilizer recommendation for corn that accounts for nitrogen availability from soil organic matter and cover crop residues. They have also written a Quick Start Guide that  explains the required inputs. Recommendations can be calculated using a graphical web-based application for a single field, or in a spreadsheet for multiple fields. The theory behind how the tool works, along with the equations used in the calculations, is described in the article "Soil Organic Matter and cover crop-based nitrogen recommendations for corn." 

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Pasa is implementing a soil health benchmarking project that helps farmers assess progress toward soil health goals. Soil sample analysis uses the Cornell Soil Health Test. A new aspect of the project will also measure soil infiltration rates on fifty farms in an effort to document how management decisions influence water infiltration. Project staff will return detailed “benchmark reports” that show each farmer how their soils compare to a community of peer farmers.

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The Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance continues its efforts with farmer-to-farmer outreach, education, and mentoring. Several major educational events are held each year. In addition, the members host or support the smaller meetings associated with regional soil health hubs. Through their promotion of no-till and cover crop practices, PANTA documented the adoption of 14,214 acres of new or improved cover crops and/or no-till practices between January 2020 and July 2023.

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Grazing Lands Coalition hired 5 part-time grazing advisors and a part-time position to help oversee and support the advisors and act as a liaison to the Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition. The new grazing advisors assisted thirty-three farmers with their grazing practices, impacting 890 acres. In conjunction with Capital RC&D, they produced several webinars that can be viewed on YouTube and they hosted the Graziers Grapevine podcast

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The Nature Conservancy has investigated how to increase the use of the state Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program, particularly for soil health purposes. REAP currently funds several million dollars in soil health related practices on an annual basis. The project focused on REAP’s Corporate Sponsorship Program.  TNC conducted outreach to organizations and businesses that may have an interest in the tax credits and who also have a stake in a strong agricultural economy, such as bankers, insurance companies, seed dealers, equipment dealers, feed companies, milk processors, and livestock integrators. The project has developed outreach and marketing materials to accelerate program adoption connecting farmers to interested corporate partners.

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Chesapeake Bay Foundation has a three county (Centre, Clinton, Lycoming) Regional Conservation Partnership Program which aims to enroll 4,000 acres of soil health practices into the Conservation Stewardship Program and host a series of soil health education events.

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The Penn State Ag and Environment Center is currently facilitating the Chiques-Conoy-Conewago Regional Partnership, or C3RP. This partnership is made up of a group of local agriculture and conservation partners working together to provide resources for farmers to meet production and conservation goals. The partnership provides tools for farmers to improve herd health, soil health, overall farm health and local water quality by funding the design and implementation of conservation practices to improve farm operations, such as manure storages, grassed waterways, cover crops, no-till transition, stream and wetland restoration, grazing management, barnyard improvements, and 4Rs nutrient management.

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