The legislative arm of Washington State is working to help improve the health of soil across the state, thus providing farmers with an opportunity to grow better crops and improve yields.
According to reports, the state’s Senate has unanimously voted to pass Bill 6306- better known as the Soil Health Plan- and send it to the House.
The bill would create a roadmap for the government to intervene in enriching the soil across the state and lend a much-needed helping hand to farmers.
Emphasis on Research and Implementation
The initiative will be led by Washington State University, with assistance from the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Washington State Conservation Commission.
After a thorough financial analysis, it is estimated that the program will cost about $1.3 million a month. The bulk of the costs would help to fund researchers at the University and some other extension agents.
Sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias (D-Lynwood), the bill will call for the creation of WSU research sites all across the state, with the purpose of testing and working on best practices that will help improve and maintain soil fertility. Soil health across the state will be assessed by the Agriculture Department, while conservation districts will also be tasked with providing counsel to landowners.
“The goals and objectives of the initiative are to improve the viability of our agricultural sector, improve human nutrition and improve environmental function,”
The bill has been lauded by various farm and environmental groups. Chad Kruger, the Director of the Mount Vernon-based research station of the WSU, also confirmed that the University is fully behind the bill.
“Soil health matters because it maintains and potentially increases yields. It can help improve crop quality and nutrition,” he said. “It enables more frequent planting of the highest-value crops, thus helping farmers make more money. It helps suppress soil-borne disease. It promotes drainage, water infiltration, and water quality.”
Much Work to Enhance Soil Fertility
So far, several initiatives have gone into working to boost soil fertility in order to help farmers maximize their output to help meet the growing demand for food.
Last week, the Soil Health Academy (SHA)- a non-profit organization- was awarded a $1.65 million grant from General Mills to teach oat and wheat producers in specific regions across the United States and Canada on best practices that will help rejuvenate soil health.
According to reports, the grant will help fund a three-year consulting, mentoring, and teaching program that will be conducted in partnership with Understanding Ag LLC., an agricultural consulting agency.
The project will focus on evaluating soil health improvements, using metrics such as crop profitability, biological diversity, and others to show the progress of the program.
David Brandt, the President of the SHA, said at the time,
“The grant from General Mills will allow SHA to partner with UA and its cadre of world-class regenerative consultants to deliver critical on-farm consulting and mentoring services to producers involved in the project.”
Consultants from Understanding Ag would work with farmers to develop regenerative management plans that will last between 3 to 5 years and incorporate on-farm learning and experiments, Brandt add3ed.
Apart from Washington, farmers in Iowa and Maryland are also reportedly investing in crops that will bolster soil health and water quality.
Cover cropping has become increasingly prominent across these states, with many working to combat the effects of climate change and make up for lack of effective irrigation systems.