Matt Ruark, professor in the Department of Soil Science and extension specialist, received $294,000 for his project “Carbon farming: Does enhancing soil carbon boost soybean yield?” through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI A1811). It was among 17 projects to share $5.3 million in funding.
Project description (from CRIS website): Improving soil is a goal of farmers for both the long-term and the short-term. Improving soil health over the long-term will lead to the sustainability of their farm. However, the short-term benefits of soil improving soil health on their bottom line is unknown. There is some evidence that soils with greater soil health metrics are associated with greater soybean yield, but a complete dataset is lacking to truly know how true this is and if the effect is true outside of Wisconsin.There is a need for more research on how current soil health tests support the decisions of US Soybean farmers. Recent research in Wisconsin has demonstrated a link between POXC (a common soil health test) and soybean yield. The proposed project seeks to expand on this connection to determine other pools of soil organic carbon and soil health tests that relate to soybean yield. focused on available soil health and soil carbon indicators and how they support the decisions of soybean producers.In our study, we will utilizelong-term experiments (29 of them across the US) to connect if inherent soil properties (soil texture or pH) or if conservation management practices (such as reduced tillage or cover crops) have the greatest influence of measurements of soil health. We will then show the connection between soil health measurements and soybean yield. If shown to be true, this will provide a clear incentive for farmers to adopt conservation management practices to build their soil health, as it will benefit them by leading to greater agronomic and economic productivity.