The Soil Health Partnership has been fostering transformation in agriculture through improved soil health since 2014. This year, SHP celebrates its fifth anniversary and the foundational collaborations that developed the program.
SHP was founded by a diverse group of organizations with a shared vision of developing a farmer-led research network to measure the impacts of implementing soil health practices on working farms. The Nature Conservancy, Bayer and the Environmental Defense Fund, alongside the National Corn Growers Association , came together to see this vision through. This program was based upon work supported by the National Resources Conservation Service, U.S Department of Agriculture.
“We are proud of the collaboration led to SHP’s establishment,” SHP Executive Director Dr. Shefali Mehta said. “That collaboration has continued to grow and evolve with many partners, bringing dynamic perspectives to the table. We would not be where we are today without our founding partners sharing the vision, then seeing it through.”
NCGA Vice President of Production and Sustainability Nathan Fields added, “Engaging with pragmatic, goal-focused groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy, and bringing in agronomic expertise from Bayer, SHP was founded amongst a well-rounded, diverse group of organizations. We have accomplished a lot in five years thanks in large part to the support from our founding members and partner farmers. The program is only just beginning. SHP is a priority to the NCGA board, and we can’t wait to see where we are in another five years and beyond.”
The SHP network now spans across 16 states and includes more than 100 partner organizations at the federal, state and county levels. SHP has grown from 17 active farms in 2014 to 220 active farms in 2019 and represents more than 7,000 acres.
Working with farmers
SHP has a team of eight field managers that work alongside farmers in their region to design and implement experiments in fields across North America.
“It is encouraging to see the vast number of farmers interested in investing in their land that they are proactively inviting SHP into their operations,” SHP lead scientist Maria Bowman said. “We continue seeking new ways to diversify our offerings to enable farmers from a broad range of geographies and operations can be part of our program. We credit our growth in large part to the energy and investment by the farmers in the SHP network. Our farmers believe and trust the work that we do, owning the data and the outcomes that are collected.”
Mehta concludes, “We look forward to the future of continued collaboration, opportunities to learn and grow with other organizations, and working alongside a broad group of farmers as they ensure the sustainability of their farm operations. The foundation has been laid, and we are eager to see where the future takes SHP and soil health management for American farmers.”