Online Soil Health Courses Now Open, Field Days Set for Oct. 7, Oct. 16
By kevin.erb | 1:06 PM, 09/29/2014
The University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Conservation Professional Training Program, in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, is offering a suite of new online soil health courses, including a choice of field trainings on Oct. 7th in Lena, WI and Oct. 16th in Linden, WI. The courses provide a variety of innovative soil management solutions to help conservation advisors and producers boost crop production, mitigate the effects of extreme weather events, and create more sustainable, lower cost operations.
The online healthy soils courses include Intro to Soil Health, Cover Crops for Healthy Soils, Soil-Water Management and Soil Health Management Practices. The fee for each online course is $150, which includes an optional one-day field training. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for Certified Crop Advisors (soil and water) are available upon successful completion of each course.
“These courses provide a great progression from beginning to advanced concepts in soil health, including concrete strategies that will create more resilient, productive soils and higher yields down the road,” says Kevin Erb, Conservation Professional Training Program director and Certified Crop Advisor. “Taking steps like increasing infiltration and water retention, covering soil and reducing tillage will help retain more nutrients in the root zone and, at the same time, help growers reach their production goals.”
Using real farm examples to reinforce course concepts, participants in the online Intro to Soil Health course will learn about soil characteristics and assessment options as well as a range of practices to improve soil health. The topic courses dig deeper into practices like cover crops, soil-water management, reduced tillage, mulching, crop rotation and other strategies to improve soil health in a variety of cropping systems.
The October field days build on skills introduced in the online courses. Through hands-on activities, participants will be able to evaluate soils using a range of field tests and see the impacts of a variety of practices on soil health.
“We’re excited to migrate these courses to a convenient, online format that allows busy professionals to complete the courses at their own pace,” says Erb. “At the same time, the field day provides a great opportunity for folks to practice some of the skills they learned in online courses and see up close both the positive and negative impacts that various practices have on the soil.”
The courses are designed primarily for agency staff, crop advisors and technical service providers but are open to anyone interested in learning more about the complex relationship between the crops we grow and the soil that sustains them.
Intro to Soil Health
This online introductory course provides participants an overview of the importance of soil health to crop production, the three primary characteristics of soil and the components of each that need to be addressed to improve soil health. It also covers soil tests to measure soil health and introduces common soil health practices.
Cover Crops for Healthy Soils
This online course covers the agronomic, economic and environmental benefits of using cover crops in diverse agricultural systems. Participants will learn about common cover crop species and the process of assisting producers in the selection, establishment, management and termination of cover crop species to meet soil health and production system goals.
Course participants will gain an understanding of soil-water properties related to water quality and quantity as well ways to improve water infiltration and increase soil moisture holding capacity. The course highlights common challenges to adoption of practices that improve soil-water dynamics and how to overcome them.
Soil Health Management Practices
Course materials explore the key agronomic management principles to improve soil health, including reduced tillage, cover crops, crop rotations and mulching. Participants will learn about the process of selecting appropriate soil health practices to meet farm-specific management requirements and goals and the challenges of implementing them.
For more information, contact Kevin Erb, director, Conservation Professional Training Program, at (920) 391-4652 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To register for Soil Health Wisconsin workshops or CPTP online courses, visit http://conservation-training.uwex.edu. To learn more about the NRCS Soil Health Initiative, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/soils/health/.
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