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Soils & Compost

Please join NCAT's Soil for Water initiative, in collaboration with The City of San Antonio and The Edwards Aquifer Authority, for a webinar on the five soil health principles. Application of these principles can lay the foundation for improved ecosystem health and aquifer recharge. In this webinar, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialists, Kara Kroeger and Colin Mitchell, will present to the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program easement landowners how to practically apply the five soil health principles. You will learn relevant approaches you can put in place to start improving soil health, including how to take soil samples and monitor how your progress over time. We will also...

Well-managed soils infiltrate and store water (and nutrients) more effectively and help protect water quality above and below ground. Without sufficient organic matter, soil function, including water infiltration and storage, can be severely impaired. Our soils aren’t ready for the stresses, extreme rainfall events, and the droughts that climate change will bring. This webinar will help you understand how to protect against these stressors....

In this episode, Lee Rinehart, a sustainable agriculture specialist with NCAT's ATTRA sustainable-agriculture program, talks with world renowned rancher and grazing educator Allen Williams. Lee, who works out of NCAT's Northeast Regional Office in Keene, N.H., and Allen talk about what Allen calls adaptive stewardship management grazing and how it could increase the supply of livestock on the market as it helps solve many issues currently associated with animal agriculture. For more information on this topic, you can contact Lee Rinehart directly at lee@ncat.org. Related ATTRA Resources: Nutrient Cycling in Pastures Building Healthy Pasture Soils Soils and Compost Grazing Resources Livestock and Pasture Other Resources: Understanding Ag Please call ATTRA with...

Dave Scott, a livestock specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology and co-owner of Montana Highland Lamb near Whitehall, Montana, discusses the operation's intensive grazing set-up....

Organic farmers and ranchers conserve biodiversity and natural resources because their agricultural production systems depend upon healthy ecosystems. In this webinar, conservation professionals and landowners can learn how Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation practices and enhancements can provide high-value production and biodiversity benefits while at the same time aiding producers in obtaining or maintaining their USDA organic status. The webinar’s presenters are Jo Ann Baumgartner, director of the Wild Farm Alliance, and Harriet Behan, an organic specialist with Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service....

Dave Scott, a livestock specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology and co-owner of Montana Highland Lamb near Whitehall, Montana, discusses the operation's composting system....

Gabe Brown: Farming in Nature's Image Gabe Brown speaking at the Connecting Soils and Profits: No-till, Cover Crops, Soil Health, & Grazing Conference held in Danville, PA, March 18, 2015. *Featuring Gabe Brown, A Local Producer Panel, NCAT & Extension Specialists* Gabe is a nationally renowned speaker and pioneer in the soil health movement that is currently creating quite a buzz among producers. Gabe & his family operate a 5000 acre diversified operation, near Bismarck, ND, that includes crops, pasture, and beef cattle. His operation focuses on regeneration of soils and farm resources using a systems approach which includes no-till, diverse crop rotations, diverse species...

With support from the USDA, NCAT Agriculture Specialists Marisa Alcorta and Rex Dufour have helped Spanish-speaking farmers in California's Central Valley experiment with cover crops to improve soil quality and provide habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators. This video documents Elias Cosio, an almond grower from near Modesto who has been collaborating with NCAT and NRCS as he plants the first cover crop in his orchard...

Dr. Michel Cavigelli, a soil scientist at the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Lab at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) in Maryland, talks on "Organic Research and Needs: Cover Crops, Crop Rotation, and Soil Health" at the 2013 Montana Organic Association meeting at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Montana. He is lead scientist of a long-term cropping systems project evaluating the sustainability of organic and conventional methods....

During the October 2013 Montana Farmers Union state meeting in Great Falls, Montana, Dr. Clain Jones of Montana State University discusses past and ongoing research projects in the state on the effectiveness of cover crops....

This webinar covers how TSPs, NRCS personnel, and Conservation Planners of all types can promote sound environmental practices that enhance biodiversity conservation and improve the production capabilities of organic farm, ranch, wild crop harvest, and handling operations. National Organic Program (NOP) regulations require the conservation of soil, water, wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife resources. Recently, the NOP modified its auditing of organic certification agencies, which is resulting in more scrutiny being paid to conservation by organic operations. This webinar discusses how conservation professionals can instruct existing and transitioning organic operators to maintain and improve the natural resources on their working lands through the...

This webinar is presented by Harriet Behar, organic specialist with Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES, organic inspector, and approved Technical Service Provider (TSP) with the NRCS. She takes participants on a virtual tour of a farm, identifying conservation concerns and possible mitigation strategies to address those concerns as well as areas that affect organic certification. In addition, she covers the manner in which these issues will be incorporated into the written NRCS Conservation Activity Plan 138 for the transition to organic. The webinar will be the third in a four-part series providing aid to those who might want to become...

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) with 10 partners are offering a webinar series on how to become a Technical Service Provider (TSP) for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and assist transitioning and certified organic producers. The webinars are part of an NRCS National Conservation Innovation Project. "Doing NRCS Conservation Activity Planning for Organic Farmers and Ranchers" is presented by Katy Green, who is perhaps the most experienced TSP working with NRCS and organic producers in the United States. Katy will share her efforts at developing conservation activity plans in compliance with NRCS standards (known in NRCS lingo as...

In "Becoming a Technical Service Provider for NRCS: An Introduction," Harriet Behar with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) begins a four-part webinar series with an introduction that will help you navigate the process to become a Technical Service Provider (TSP) to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Technical Service Providers (TSPs) are individuals or businesses with technical expertise in conservation planning and design for a variety of conservation activities. TSPs are hired by farmers, ranchers, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, or public agencies to provide these services on behalf of the NRCS. The webinar also discusses the Conservation Activity...

The USDA Organic Rules require a soil-building crop rotation that controls erosion, maintains or improves soil organic matter content, manages deficient or excess plant nutrients, and provides for crop pest management. Sod, cover crops, green manure crops, catch crops, and various mulches are included in the rotation to perform these functions, which correspond to the purposes for NRCS Conservation Practices such as Conservation Crop Rotation, Cover Crop, Strip Cropping, and Nutrient Management. Because organic producers do not use synthetic fertilizers and can use only a very limited list of pesticides or fungicides, they depend to a greater degree on crop rotation...

Florida Organic Growers (FOG)lead NRCS staff on short virtual tours of three certified organic operations in Florida and Puerto Rico. Each organic grower touches on the philosophical and practical aspects of growing organic crops in semi tropical and tropical regions -- including their main production challenges and successes. They also discuss the ways they manage their soils, water, crops, wildlife, and other resources. The growers point out the ways they conserve natural resources in their farms while also identifying areas in they need support to increase their resource conservation. The webinar is being presented by NCAT with funding through the...

This webinar addresses multi-species cover crops that can be used to improve soil health, increase biological diversity, and benefit the bottom line in no-till grain operations. An increasing number of grain farmers are experimenting with these "cocktails" of cover crops such as legumes, grasses, and companion crops to keep the soil covered year-round. During this webinar, Jay Fuhrer, District Conservationist with the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Bismarck, North Dakota, shared his experience with this innovative no-till approach. Fuhrer presented four on-farm case studies to illustrate how to successfully use cover crop "cocktails" to enhance crop production and livestock forage...

In this episode, Kara Kroeger, a sustainable agriculture specialist with NCAT's ATTRA sustainable agriculture program, talks with Nicole Masters, a New Zealand agroecologist and director of Integrity Soils. Kara, who works out of NCAT’s Southwest Regional Office in San Antonio, Texas, caught up with Nicole via telephone while Nicole was visiting a client in Big Timber, Montana. They talk about ways in which the "soil microbiome" system that acts as a plant's digestive system mirrors the microbiome of the human digestive system. They discuss how to understand the health of an agricultural operation's soil microbiome, and they talk about ways regenerative...

In this episode, Nina Prater, a soil specialist with NCAT's ATTRA sustainable agriculture program, sits down for a conversation with NCAT Southeast Regional Director Margo Hale to talk about the basics of soil health and to go over the five soil health principles that farmers and ranchers can follow to regenerate soil to a healthy, productive condition. Margo is a livestock specialist, and she earned two degrees in Animal Science without a single soil class. Nina tries to remedy this around the office on a regular basis, so they decided to record one of these conversations. Margo and Nina both...

Down in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, Hilltop Gardens Farm Manager Andy Cruz discusses using sorghum-sudangrass as a cover crop in subtropical climates. Andy explains how to plant sorghum-sudangrass, its benefits, and how it positively affects the soil health on the farm. This video is part of NCAT's Subtropical Soil Health Initiative funded by USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant #69-3A75-17-281. For more on cover crop use in subtropical climates, read the NCAT publication: Cover Crop Options for Hot and Humid Areas...

In this episode Dave Scott, agriculture specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable agriculture program, sits down with Korey Fauque, a farmer of 4,500 acres and owner of KW Insurance, a crop insurance company in Sunburst, Montana. He has an Agriculture Technology degree from Montana State University Northern in Havre, Montana. Dave Scott is located at NCAT’s Rocky Mountain West Office in Butte, Montana. In this podcast, Dave and Korey talk about soil health and regenerative agriculture, which is the use of agriculture practices that mimic nature. They discuss the Five Principles of Soil Health, which are: 1) Minimum disturbance; 2) Roots in the...

In this podcast, Rex Dufour, director of NCAT’s Western Regional Office in Davis, California, talks with Omar Rodriguez, sustainable agriculture specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable agriculture program, about working with California farmers to establish hedgerows. Hedgerows provide many benefits to farms in addition to adding beauty. They play an important role in pest management and help prevent erosion as well as create visual and dust barriers. Omar and Rex also discuss preparing the ground for planting a hedgerow and what kinds of plants are commonly used. For more information on this topic, you can contact Rex and Omar directly at rexd@ncat.org and omarr@ncat.org. Related...

In this episode, Colin Mitchell, an agriculture specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA – the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service – talks with Daniel Reyes, the founder of the Myco Alliance in Austin, Texas. Colin works out of the NCAT Southwest Regional Office in San Antonio, Texas. Mycology is the study of fungi, an important topic in agriculture and soil science. Myco Alliance is a science and education company focusing on mycology in the central Texas area. In this podcast, Colin and Daniel cover a range of topics, from raising mushrooms – a type of fungi – to the role of fungi in soil...

In this episode, Nina Prater, a soil specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA – the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service – sits down for a conversation with NCAT Southeast Regional Director Margo Hale to talk about Margo’s recent soil test results for her 20-acre livestock farm. Margo and Nina both work out of NCAT’s regional office in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Margo and her family graze cattle and meat goats, and while they have been happy with forage productivity, they wanted to do soil tests to see if there was any room for improvement. Nina and Margo discuss the many, sometimes mystifying, numbers reported on...

In this episode, Nina Prater, a Soil Specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service – at NCAT’s Southeast Regional Office in Fayetteville, Arkansas, sits down with Dr. Buz Kloot of the University of South Carolina to talk about a new composting system developed by Dr. David Johnson and Hui-Chen Su Johnson, dubbed the Johnson-Su Composting Bioreactor, which allows for beneficial-fungal growth. The conversation, which took place during the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) 2019 Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas, also includes discussion of fungi-to-bacteria ratios as a soil health indicator, the five Soil Health Principles, and...

In this episode, Daniel Prial, an agricultural specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, at the NCAT Northeast Office in Keene, New Hampshire, travels to Five College Farms in Hadley, Massachusetts, to learn about growing organic crops in greenhouse systems. Five College Farms grows heirloom tomatoes and Persian cucumbers in a series of greenhouses. Daniel speaks with Arthur Mulyono, the business manager of Five College Farms, about how the greenhouse operators maintain soil fertility and control pests. They also discuss the unique marketing considerations that go along with selling greenhouse vegetables directly to groceries. You can get in touch...

In this episode, we talk with Margaret Krome, the Policy Program Director of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, New York. She is also a board member of the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Margaret talks about the impact of the ATTRA program – which is managed by NCAT through a cooperative agreement with USDA Rural Business Cooperative Service – and the important sustainable-agriculture issues she sees going into the future. ATTRA resources on issues Margaret mentions in the episode – soil health, urban agriculture, cover crops, internships, and more – can be found on our website. Please call ATTRA with...

In this episode, we talk with Mike Andreas of Andreas Homestead near Raleigh, North Carolina. Mike, who has had a successful career in the entertainment industry, and his wife, Lynn, moved to North Carolina. After beginning to raise their own poultry, with help from neighbors, they have begun a small poultry meat business, sustainable raising around 300 to 500 birds each year, as well as 10 to 20 goats, on 10 acres. Mike talks about how after just a few years, others in the area have begun asking them for advice, the challenges of processing in North Carolina, and regenerating...

In this episode, Keith Berns of Green Cover Seeds in Nebraska talks about "Carbonomics," a big-picture view of soil health. He compares the economy of a country with what's going on in the soil. "The soil operates as an economy," he says. "And when we can look at it that way, we will fundamentally understand it better." Berns' talk took place at the Columbia County, Pennsylvania, Conservation District's 2 Soil Health Conference in Danville, Pennsylvania....

This short video shows dramatic differences in aggregate stability which result from different management practices of the exact same soil type. The narration explains why aggregate stability is so important as an indicator of soil health, and how soil health can be supported....

In this video, Keith Berns of Green Cover Seeds in Nebraska, talks about "Carbonomics," a big-picture view of soil health. He compared the economy of a country with what's going on in the soil. "The soil operates as an economy. And when we can look at it that way, we will fundamentally understand it better."...

In this video, Keith Berns of Green Cover Seeds talks about his operation's soil health strategies in South Central Nebraska. Berns no-tills 2,500 acres of irrigated and dryland corn, soybeans, rye, triticale, peas, sunflowers, and buckwheat....

In this episode, NCAT Program Specialist Martin Guerena interviews organic famer Luis Guevara of Rancho La Familia from Santa Maria California. It includes his biography; 38 years of farming experience; early years and markets; reasons for diversification; current markets; production challenges; climate change challenges; pest control techniques; fertilization practices; compost; cover crops; rotations and advice to new and beginning farmers....

In this episode, NCAT Program Specialist Martin Guerena interviews Martin Barnes of Capy Organics in Yolo County, California. The interview touches on the farm's early years and starting the Davis farmers market; its first crops; diversification of crops; the transition from markets to CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture); the expansion to Southern California and the Pacific Northwest; technological innovation; expanding its CSA to 50,000 customers; its pest challenges then and now; its fertilization program with compost and foliar applications; and Martin's advice to beginning farmers on land and markets....

Entrevista con Luis Guevara agricultor orgánico del Rancho La Familia de Santa María California. La Entrevista incluye: biografía, experiencia de 38 años como agricultor, principios, mercados, diversificación de productos, expansión de mercados, desafíos de producción, cambio climático, control de plagas, fertilización, rotación de cultivos y consejos para agricultores principiantes....

In this edition, Andrew Coggins, Agriculture Project Coordinator at the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s headquarters in Butte, Montana, discusses the keys to creating an effective composting strategy....

John Wallace of Penn State University discussed equipment innovations for soil health during the Columbia County, Pennsylvania, District Soil Health Conference in March of 2106 in Danville, Pennsylvania. The conference was entitled "Connecting Soils and Profits: No-till, Cover Crops, Soil Health and Grazing....

Conference speakers and local producers answer questions during the Columbia County, Pennsylvania, District Soil Health Conference in March of 2106 in Danville, Pennsylvania. The conference was entitled "Connecting Soils and Profits: No-till, Cover Crops, Soil Health and Grazing....

Capital RC&D invited Christopher Lent with the National Center for Appropriate Technology to lead this September 29th, 2015 webinar specifically for experienced growers and featuring important information about maintaining high tunnel soil health....

Hot humid areas need especially large and frequent inputs of organic matter to maintain soil fertility, yet standard cover crop recommendations don't always work in these locations. In this podcast drawn from his popular webinar, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Justin Duncan uses his own organic farming experience in Texas, discusses some particular cover crops (including some unfamiliar in the United States) that can be used build soil organic matter in hot and humid areas in USDA Hardiness Zones 8,9,10 and beyond. The webinar was is a product of the Subtropical Organic Agriculture Research (SOAR) project, and is based upon work supported...

Hot humid areas need especially large and frequent inputs of organic matter to maintain soil fertility, yet standard cover crop recommendations don't always work in these locations. In this podcast drawn from his popular webinar, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Justin Duncan uses his own organic farming experience in Texas, explains how to choose cover crops (including some unfamiliar in the United States) to build soil organic matter in hot and humid areas in USDA Hardiness Zones 8,9,10 and beyond. The webinar was is a product of the Subtropical Organic Agriculture Research (SOAR) project, and is based upon work supported by the...

Hot humid areas need especially large and frequent inputs of organic matter to maintain soil fertility, yet standard cover crop recommendations don't always work in these locations. In this podcast drawn from his popular webinar, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Justin Duncan uses his own organic farming experience in Texas, explains how to build soil organic matter in hot and humid areas in USDA Hardiness Zones 8, 9, 10, and beyond. The webinar was is a product of the Subtropical Organic Agriculture Research (SOAR) project, and is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of...

In this episode, Tammy Howard, an agronomy specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology, speaks at a USDA Risk Management Agency sponsored tour of Terrapin Farm near Whitefish, Montana. She discusses the uses of cover crops for various purposes, including fertility, weed management, and increasing biomass. She also discusses crop rotation and termination....

Hot humid areas need especially large and frequent inputs of organic matter to maintain soil fertility, yet standard cover crop recommendations don’t always work in these locations. Drawing on his own organic farming experience in Texas, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Justin Duncan explains how to choose and use cover crops in hot and humid areas, describing many crop options (including some unfamiliar in the United States) that do well in USDA Hardiness Zones 8,9,10 and beyond. This webinar is a product of the Subtropical Organic Agriculture Research (SOAR) project, and is based upon work supported by the National Institute of...

University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley graduate student Savannah Rugg shows four cover crops with good potential for South Texas and other hot humid areas: Sudangrass. Sunn Hemp. Lablab. Pearl Millet. Learn more about the SOAR Partnership Like the SOAR Partnership on Facebook Funding to develop this video was provided by the Organic Transitions Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2013-51106-20970. Ask an Ag Expert! Free advice from NCAT/ATTRA’s sustainable agriculture specialists. Call 800-346-9140 (English) or 800-411-3222 (Spanish); email askanagexpert@ncat.org or visit the ATTRA website at www.attra.ncat.org....

University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley graduate student Savannah Rugg explains five main benefits of using cover crops. Learn more about the SOAR Partnership Like the SOAR Partnership on Facebook Funding to develop this video was provided by the Organic Transitions Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2013-51106-20970. Ask an Ag Expert! Free advice from NCAT/ATTRA’s sustainable agriculture specialists. Call 800-346-9140 (English) or 800-411-3222 (Spanish); email askanagexpert@ncat.org or visit the ATTRA website at www.attra.ncat.org....

Judy Owsowitz, the owner of Terrapin Farm near Whitefish, MT, talks about her certified organic operation and cover crops during a farm tour funded by USDA RMA in August 2014....

Dr. Perry Miller of Montana State University discusses cover crop research at a college research field near Conrad, Montana, in July 2014. The field day was part of a project funded by USDA RMA and organized by NCAT and several partners. More information about the research and cover cropping is available here. Videos of other field days and farm tours that were part of the project are available at NCAT's ATTRA website www.attra.ncat.org...

Dr. Perry Miller of Montana State University discusses cover crop research at a college research field near Conrad, Montana, in July 2014. The field day was part of a project funded by USDA RMA and organized by NCAT and several partners. More information about the research and cover cropping is available here. Videos of other field days and farm tours that were part of the project are available at NCAT's ATTRA website www.attra.ncat.org...

Griff Bye, a farmer who operates on about 11,000 acres near Kevan, Montana, talks about his cover-crop strategy during a farm tour in August 2014. The tour was part of a project funded by USDA RMA and organized by NCAT and its partners. Videos of other parts of the project are available on NCAT's ATTRA website at www.attra.ncat.org...

Tammy Howard, an NCAT agronomy specialist, spoke about how small-scale producers can use cover crops during an August 2014 farm tour at Terrapin Farms near Whitefish, Montana. The tour was part of a USDA RMA funded project and presented by NCAT and a number of partners. Howard discussed various uses for cover crops, including fertility, weed, management, and increasing biomass. She also discussed crops rotation and termination. Videos of other parts of the project can be found at NCAT's ATTRA website www.ncat.org....

Doug Crabtree and Anna Jones-Crabtree, are owners of Vilicus Farms, an organic grain operation about 25 miles north of Havre, Montana. They discuss their operation before a farm tour sponsored by USDA RMA in June 2014....

With support from the USDA, NCAT Agriculture Specialists Marisa Alcorta and Rex Dufour have helped Spanish-speaking farmers in California's Central Valley experiment with cover crops to improve soil quality and provide habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators. This video documents Elias Cosio, an almond grower from near Modesto who has been collaborating with NCAT and NRCS as he plants the first cover crop in his orchard...