“Understanding Soil Health and Watershed Function” is a new teacher’s workbook by Didi Pershouse, now available as a “sneak preview” for educators preparing their fall lessons. The Dixon Water Foundation supported the production of this resource, which was a joint project of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub, The Soil Carbon Coalition, and Redlands Community College.
Allen Williams, Ph.D., recently shared his experiences as a consultant, rancher and pioneer in grass-finished beef production during a workshop at Dixon Ranches Leo Unit, co-hosted by the Noble Foundation. Williams offered his perspectives on soil health, adaptive multi-paddock grazing and forage management, high attribute pasture-based meat production, and alternative marketing systems. Presentations from this workshop are now online:
- Grass Fed Beef Genetics & Finishing [ PDF ] [PowerPoint]
- State of Grass Fed Industry [ PDF ] [PowerPoint]
- Adaptive Grazing and Relationship to Soil Health [ PDF ] (36MB)
Williams is a 6th generation family farmer and founding partner of Grass Fed Beef LCC and Grass Fed Insights LLC, and a partner in Joyce Farms, Inc. He has consulted with more than 4,000 farmers and ranchers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and South America on operations ranging from a few acres to more than one million acres. Williams pioneered many of the early grass-fed protocols and forage finishing techniques, and has spent the last 15 years refining them.
The Southern Soil Health Conference is coming up on January 12-13 in Ardmore, Oklahoma.
This conference for producers and land owners focuses solely on Soil Health, Cover Crops and Grazing. At least 75% of registrants are people directly involved with the land—production agriculture (crops and/or livestock) and land owners. This conference will also be producer driven with almost all the speakers and presenters being farmers. Keynote speakers will include: Dr. Allan Williams, Steve Tucker, John Heerman, and Darin Williams.
In addition, we will have 8-10 Texas and Oklahoma producers sharing about their individual experiences with Soil Health and how it has affected their farming operations. Some of these speakers are Jimmy Emmons, Craig Watson, Yates Adcock, Max Martin and more…
This conference is about knowledge and learning and not selling products. We will not be having a commercial trade show to promote individual companies or products.
The Southern Soil Health Conference is sponsored in part by the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Farm Foundation, No-Till on the Plains, Southern SARE, Texas Grazing Land Coalition, Dixon Water Foundation, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Sand County Foundation, and the Natural Resource Defense Council.
Soil Carbon Curious is a new short film from Peter Byck, the producer of Soil Carbon Cowboys and Carbon Nation. It’s about an exciting new collaborative research group, the ASU•Soil Carbon Nation Whole Systems Science Team. As Byck describes:
“Adaptive Multi-Paddock grazing (AMP grazing) is regenerating soils around the world, producing healthy grass-finished beef. But the science on AMP grazing is sparse, to say the least. Now, a group of leading soil, rangeland, bug and social scientists are setting out to fill the science gap. Led by Dr. Richard Teague of Texas A&M, and convened by filmmaker Peter Byck of Arizona State University, the ASU•Soil Carbon Nation Whole Systems Science Team is positioned to do large scale science that’s never been done before.”
The team is working on the 1 Million Metric Tons Pilot Program, which aims to demonstrate the carbon-sequestration potential of soil managed with adaptive multi-paddock grazing.
You can now also view Soil Carbon Cowboys en español.
Landowners in Cooke County are invited to a one-day workshop on October 2 with Texas A&M AgriLife at Dixon Ranches Leo Unit. From 7:30am to 4pm, participants will learn about recognizing the cross timbers, wildlife habitat management & tax appraisals, range management, conservation easements, soils, and invasive plants. Admission is $20. CEUs available. For a complete program, download a PDF of the Cross Timbers Landowner Workshop agenda.
Hardin-Simmons University researchers recently received a Dixon Water Foundation grant to explore how land management affects the subterranean world of soil microbes on a Runnels County ranch. Learn more in this article from Ballinger News and the video below from Abilene Fox affiliate KXVA. KRBC meteorologist Scott Cook also featured the research project on Abilene’s NBC affiliate.
ABILENE—Under every farm and ranch around Abilene, a universe of microorganisms is toiling in the soil. Hardin-Simmons University researchers recently received a Dixon Water Foundation grant to explore how land management affects this subterranean world on a Runnels County ranch.
“Our food, our water resources, and many other ecosystem services start with soil,” said Marla Potess, an HSU environmental science professor leading the research. “Over the last 100 years, we’ve been really hard on our soils. Even with good, scientifically based management, soils are degrading, and many ecosystems are moving from highly productive to less productive. So I’m very interested in managing soils to improve microbial biodiversity, which may impact water retention and plant biodiversity and productivity.”
In what they hope will become a long-term study, Potess and HSU biology professor Jennifer Hennigan are examining soil microorganisms on the Newman Ranch in Runnels County, about 40 miles south of Abilene. HSU professor emeritus and trustee George Newman invited the university to use his ranches as outdoor laboratories and created an endowment to fund research on his family property.
“For the past 40 years, as time and finances have allowed, I have been converting my cropland back into native grassland,” Newman said. “I feel that my philosophy of land stewardship closely mirrors that of the Dixon Water Foundation and I am very appreciative of their support for this program.”
The Newman Ranch study sites have the same soil type but have been managed very differently, Potess explained. For example, one site is a cultivated hay grazer field, while another is being restored to native prairie grasses. Potess and Hennigan are looking for differences in the soil microbial communities at each site, which they eventually hope to correlate with different management techniques used in each pasture.
HSU students have been actively involved in the research, collecting and analyzing soil samples and drafting research proposals related to the project. The Dixon Water Foundation grant will fund DNA sequencing that will provide a snapshot of the microbial diversity at each study site.
“It’s exciting for students to participate in a project that’s asking really important questions and filling in real information gaps,” says Potess. “The preliminary data this spring indicates we’re on the right track, so we’re really excited to see what we find this summer when the DNA is extracted and processed.”
Ultimately this research could help farmers and ranchers better understand how their actions aboveground affect the microscopic world underground.
“The hypothesis is if soils have diverse, healthy microorganisms, they can hold more water,” Potess said. “And that has important implications for drought resistance for crops and restoring grasslands.”
Those implications helped attract support from the Dixon Water Foundation, which promotes healthy watersheds through sustainable land management. The foundation funds research and education projects tied to this mission and demonstrates sustainable grazing management on its four ranches in North and West Texas.
“We hope this research will help farmers and ranchers improve the economic productivity of their land by building healthier soils and healthier watersheds,” said Robert Potts, the foundation’s president and CEO.
Patrick Holden, director of the Sustainable Food Trust and former director of the Soil Association, explains how Holistic Management and regenerative agriculture can heal many of society’s problems in this video interview from the Savory Institute. Holden is a dairyman in the UK raising heritage breed cows and producing some of the finest raw milk cheese in the world.
If you consider yourself a gardener, farmer, rancher or landscape architect, think again.
Ingham is a leading soil microbiologist, composting guru, and former chief scientist of the organic-farming icon, The Rodale Institute. Whether your soil is growing tomatoes in an urban backyard or cattle forage in a pasture, Ingham offers practical knowledge about how to make soils and plants flourish without synthetic chemicals.
The free lecture on Friday, “Talking Dirty Soil Solutions,” provides an introduction to the soil food web—the complex system of microorganisms that create and sustain healthy, fertile soil. The lecture will be held in the Cedar Valley College gym from 9am to 10am.
A full-day workshop on Saturday delves deeper into the soil food web, compost, and compost tea technology. Ingham will explain the elements of a thriving soil food web, teach participants how to analyze and improve soil, and demonstrate how to make composts and organic extracts to strengthen the soil food web. This workshop costs $99 and will be held from 9am to 5pm in Cedar Valley College rooms M121-M122.
Ingham will share more of her wisdom during a benefit dinner on Thursday, March 19, at the Farm Girls’ Waxahachie classroom. Live music by Justin Smith and a farm-to-table banquet prepared by Chef Amy, co-owner of Field to Meal, will raise funds to provide free workshop passes for agricultural producers. The festivities start at 7pm and the requested donation is $65 to $150. To reserve a spot at the banquet, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/farm-to-fork-dinner-benefitting-farmers-tickets-15826384141
For more information, to register, or to nominate a producer for a free workshop pass, visit carboneconomyseries.com or call (469) 554-9202. The lecture and workshop are presented by the Carbon Economy Series, in partnership with the Dixon Water Foundation.