Managing the Most Precious Resource

Workshops help producers with soil health management practices

Producers are increasingly hearing about how using no-till and cover crops will help benefit soil health. But what actually is going on in the ground below your feet when these practices happen? Questions like this will be one of many answered in the Keys to Soil Health Advanced Workshops held throughout the state in July and August.

The workshop costs $10 and is sponsored by the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS). The full-day event is geared toward teaching landowners the science in the soils and will feature instruction and hands-on demonstrations from soil health specialists from the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) and the USDA.

These advanced workshops are part two in a series of classes held earlier this year and instructed by researchers from CAFNR’s Bradford Research Center in Columbia.

Soil sample testing.Soil sample testing. Attendees are asked to bring two soil samples from their land.

“But it’s not required to have been at the first workshop,” said Kerry Clark, research specialist at Bradford Research Center. “We just wanted to provide people with additional and more in-depth information.”

Topics will include management strategies to maximize benefits of cover crops, the cost to benefit ratios of improving soil health, farming to improve organic matter and soil water retention and improving crop nutrient availability through improvement of soil health.

“This time we also added talks about how livestock can effect soil health and what strategies such as rotational grazing and cover crops as forage can help,” added Jill Staples of Bradford Research Center.

Attendees are also urged to bring in two dried soil samples for testing — one sample from a fencerow or undisturbed native grass area and another from a field which has had a management practice applied. The soil will be tested for active carbon and specialists on hand can provide feedback for management practices.

“We will also have a rain simulator at the workshop,” said Staples. “This popular demonstration is very impressive visually and shows how certain practices can effect soil water retention and runoff.”

According to Clark, the next revolution in agriculture will be dealing with soil health.

“The quality of our soil in the state is a silent killer,” she said. “We don’t realize that it’s effecting our yields and that we have degraded our soil structure and organic matter. What fertilizers were 30 years ago, we think soil health will be the next great bump in productivity.”

Registration is required and should be made by contacting Jill Staples at 573-239-2179 or by email at More information about the workshop can be found at Bradford Research Center’s new website at

To download high-resolution, press-quality photos of Bradford Research Center and other workshops by MU, visit CAFNR’s Flickr Page at

Scheduled dates and locations of the Keys to Soil Health Workshops:

Locations Date Time Address
Albany July 21st 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Hundley-Whaley Research Center
1109 S. Birch St.
Marshall July 22nd 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Farm Credit Services Financial
1360 Lexington Ave(Along Highway 65 – across from John Deere)
Adrian August 7th 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Adrian Optimist Building
317 S. O 71 Highway
Lamar August 8th 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Thiebaud Auditorium
105 E. 11th St.
Edina August 18th 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Knox County Community Center
207 N. Fourth St.
Vandalia August 19th 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. First Baptist Church Multipurpose Building
111 Main St.
West Plains August 21st 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. West Plains Civic Center
110 St. Louis St.
Owensville August 22nd 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Owensville VFW Hall604 W. Jefferson Ave.