Soybeans emerge through a thick mat of diverse cover crop plant residues. Cover crop plant residues help reduce evaporation, lower soil temperatures and protect the soil from wind and water erosion.
Cover Crop Residues Cover crops, reduced tillage and other soil health practices can reduce greenhouse gases, safeguard water sources and benefit farmers. © Ron Nichols, USDA-NRCS

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Soil Health Partnership and The Nature Conservancy Renew Shared Commitment to a Sustainable Future

Arlington, VA

Agriculture in the 21st century faces a pressing challenge of producing enough food, fuel and fiber to support a rapidly increasing population, while safeguarding the land and water resources upon which we all depend. Finding a sustainable solution at this intersection of agriculture and the environment is at the heart of long-standing collaboration between the Soil Health Partnership – a farmer-led initiative of the National Corn Growers’ Association (NCGA) – and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a global conservation non-profit organization.

SHP and TNC recently reaffirmed their shared vision to transform America’s agriculture system and ensure a sustainable future through improved soil health by renewing and expanding their memorandum of understanding (MOU) to continue to guide their partnership. The MOU, first signed four years ago, is premised on the mutually held belief that farmers can meet growing global demands, remain profitable and protect the environment by managing their croplands for soil health. Soil produces 95 percent of our food, and healthy agriculture systems filter our drinking water, increase drought resilience, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and store more carbon. 

“The Nature Conservancy’s collaboration with the Soil Health Partnership is a successful example of agricultural and environmental interests coming together to work towards common goals,” said Shefali Mehta, executive director of the SHP. “TNC is an instrumental leader and partner as we team up with farmers, providing tools that augment soil health as part of their overall management strategy.” 

Driven by an organizational goal to achieve widespread adoption on more than half of America’s soy, wheat and corn croplands by 2025, TNC is a supporter and scientific advisor for SHP’s growing network of demonstration farms, where experts test, measure and share results of soil health practices—like cover crops, reduced tillage and improved nutrient management—in real growing conditions. 

With aligned goals and a shared commitment to scientific research, our organizations helping to ensure a sustainable future for farmers, communities and nature.

Director of The Nature Conservancy’s North America Agriculture Program

“The scale of the challenges we face and the rate at which they are growing requires collaborative and targeted science-based solutions,” said Larry Clemens, director of The Nature Conservancy’s North America Agriculture Program. “Our continued collaboration with the Soil Health Partnership is vital to our conservation goals. With aligned goals and a shared commitment to scientific research, our organizations helping to ensure a sustainable future for farmers, communities and nature.”

Currently there are 140 SHP demonstration sites in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, and soon, South Dakota. The network continues to expand with new sites expected in Tennessee this Spring. Playing a key role in the expansion, TNC is fundraising to help fund work on 15 farm sites in Tennessee. To date, the organization has secured a $270,000 grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, with more funding from other sources expected soon.

The two entities will celebrate their renewed commitment to achieving soil health across America’s croplands at the SHP’s annual Soil Health Summit in St. Louis on January 15-16, 2019, bringing together more than 300 farmers, agronomists, conservationists, companies and other partners. TNC is a sponsor of the event and is planning a presentation geared towards helping farmers work with their landowners to adopt soil health practices on rented farmland.

“Non-operating landowners control about 40 percent of U.S. farmland, making this demographic vital to achieving widespread adoption of soil health practices,” said Clemens. “The Nature Conservancy is helping to provide tools and resources for non-operator landowners and other key actors to recognize the value soil health and encourage its adoption among farmers renting their land.”

To learn more about the Soil Health Summit, visit soilhealthpartnership.org.

About the Soil Health Partnership 

The Soil Health Partnership is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health, benefiting both farmer profitability and the environment. With more than 100 working farms enrolled in 14 states, the SHP tests, measures and advances progressive farm management practices that will enhance sustainability and farm economics for generations to come. SHP brings together broad and diverse partners to work towards common goals. Administered by the National Corn Growers Association, the SHP’s vision is driven by initial and continuing funding and guidance from NCGA, Bayer, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, The General Mills Foundation, Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, National Wheat Foundation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy, the Pisces Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. For more, visit soilhealthpartnership.org.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.