Soil Health Program

LATAH SWCD provides research, monitoring and evaluation support to address soil health concerns on working lands.

Soil Health from the Ground Up

Promoting Locally-led Innovations in Soil Management

The Latah SWCD is positioned to lead and provide opportunities for integrating soil health principles and practices into Palouse dryland cropping systems. Building local expertise and conservation partnerships in soil health will also strengthen regional and national efforts to improve soil health management at the farm scale.

The Goal of the soil health program is to develop educational, demonstration and research programs that advance the science and art of soil health and promote innovative grower-led solutions to soil health problems.

 

Our Program Approach is to strengthen the abilities of regional growers and land managers to understand and solve on-farm soil health issues by engaging conservation partners and implementing the following program:

Soil Health Projects

Soil Acidification

Latah SWCD established strip trials on four growers fields in 2012 to evaluate the effect of different lime materials and rates on soil pH, other nutrients, and crop yields. Latah SWCD continues to monitor these strip trials for long-term impacts. Additionally, Latah SWCD worked with growers to develop and implement variable rate lime applications and emerging technologies for field scale soil pH monitoring. This project was initially funded through an Idaho NRCS Conservation and Innovation grant.

Soil Health Monitoring

The Latah SWCD conducted a 3-year demonstration of soil health testing methods with funding provided by an Idaho NRCS Conservation and Innovation grant. Through this project several commercially available soil biological, chemical and physical tests were evaluated for applicability to growers in the area. A database of regional soil quality indicators is being developed to help inform interpretation of soil test results. Latah SWCD soil scientists continue to work with growers to refine the use of traditional and emerging soil tests to support innovation and adoption of soil health building farming practices.

Diversifying Crop Rotations

Latah County growers are experimenting with diversifying wheat-based cropping systems by integrating perennial crops, cover crops, and livestock grazing into rotations. Latah SWCD soil scientists are working with growers to help evaluate the effect these alternative management practices have on soil properties. These alternative farm management systems will be further evaluated for their potential to be more resilient under projected climate variability.

Soil Phosphorus

Some Latah County growers have raised questions of current recommendations of phosphorus fertilization rates  and lack of yield response. Recent research suggests that soil phosphorus availability may be interacting with changing soil pH in agricultural lands in complex and unexpected patterns. Latah SWCD is beginning to engage in this research to support growers in improving efficiency of phosphorus fertilizer applications and to mitigate potential risks to regional water quality.

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