The first National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil health took place in Omaha, Nebraska February 17-19th. The conference invited over 300 agricultural innovators and researchers to discuss ways of improving soil health and make U.S. agricultural more sustainable. As part of the conference, Cover Crops and Soil Health Forums took place on February 18th all across the United States. Iowans were invited to attend one of the 10 sites hosting the webinar, including here at Iowa State.
The forum included a panel discussion with NRCS conservation agronomist Ray Archuleta, philanthropist Howard G. Buffet and NRCS Chief Jason Weller. They announced the goal of increasing the current 2-3 million acres of cover crops planted in the U.S. in 2013 to about 20 million acres by 2020.
Buffet, who owns farm land in Illinois, Nebraska, Arizona and South Africa, said getting American farmers to improve their practices would help change practices worldwide and help preserve resources. Weller’s introductory remarks echoed Buffet’s desire for conservation practices, pointing out the importance of protecting soil health in the face of increasing population growth and shrinking agricultural land. In the last 30 years, 43 million acres in the U.S. have been developed (roughly the size of Washington). Of those acres, 14 million were classified as prime agricultural land (roughly the size of West Virginia)!
Also featured were four Midwest cash crop farmers (shown below), Clay Mitchell from Iowa, Dan DeSutter from Indiana, Gabe Brown from North Dakota, and Dave Brandt from Ohio. These four farmers have different goals for using cover crops, but all share the drive to improve and protect their soil.
Conference resources, including the recorded national broadcast are available here from the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) website.