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Indiana launches statewide soil health census

Indiana launches statewide soil health census

By Andi Anderson

Purdue University, alongside conservation groups and industry stakeholders, is forming the Indiana Organic Network (ION) to improve soil health across the state. This initiative aims to conduct a statewide soil health census, assessing conditions on regional and farm scales. Supported by a nearly $1 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the project seeks to empower organic farmers with essential data and resources.

"This project is about empowering Indiana organic farmers," said Yichao Rui, assistant professor in the Department of Agronomy and head of the Purdue Agroecology Lab. Rui and Ashley Adair, Extension organic agriculture specialist, lead the ION effort. Partner organizations include the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative and the Indiana Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Adair highlighted the need for such a network, emphasizing the potential for farmers to lead the initiative. Indiana ranks fifth in U.S. agriculture production, traditionally known for large-scale corn and soybean farming. However, challenges like climate change and environmental degradation necessitate exploring sustainable farming approaches.

Organic farming avoids synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, relying on crop diversity and organic fertilizers. Indiana has 937 certified organic farms, ranging from small vegetable plots to extensive row crop operations. ION will support these farms and those transitioning to organic certification.

The soil health census will provide insights into organic farming systems and practices, helping farmers identify areas for improvement. Healthy soil, rich in organic matter and diverse microbes, is crucial for sustainable agriculture.

The Purdue team plans to develop microbial activity testing kits to offer immediate insights into nutrient cycling. "This project is a step towards building concrete data to help Indiana growers," Adair noted.

For more information about Purdue University and its initiatives, visit Purdue University's strategic initiatives

Photo Credit: gettyimages-sasiistock

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Categories: Indiana, Crops, Harvesting

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