SENECA FALLS, N.Y. — Soil health continues to be a prominent topic at Empire Farm Days, the largest outdoor agricultural trade show in the Northeastern U.S. Experts from across the state of New York traveled to the annual event in Seneca Falls, NY, to deliver three days of talks and demonstrations. The programs emphasized the importance of maintaining healthy soils in sustaining viable farms and the natural environment.
“The emphasis on soil health continues to be a relevant topic for attendees at Empire Farm Days, agriculture in New York, the country, and for that matter, the world,” said Paul Salon, Northeast Region soil health specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Salon, in conjunction with the New York State Soil Health Work Group, played a central role in organizing the events.
On each day of Empire Farm Days (August 7-9, 2018), attendees convened at the Soil Health Center to meet with soil and natural resource specialists, as well as farmers who have extensive experience with reduced tillage and cover cropping. At the Center, attendees learned about the latest research and practices that enhance soil health and gained cutting-edge knowledge to improve the performance of soils on their farms.
Featured speakers included:
- Sally A. Flis, Ph.D., director of agronomy for The Fertilizer Institute, who discussed the 4R framework for nutrient management in relation to soil health practices;
- Harold M. van Es, a 30-year professor of soil science at Cornell University who touched on the physical, chemical and biological aspects of soil;
- and Michael E. Hunter who spoke about his work with weed management strategies as a Field Crops Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Each day also featured a different panel of farmers who discussed the challenges they have overcome in establishing soil health management practices on their farms, and shared lessons they have learned in balancing nutrient and herbicide needs with cover crops and reduced tillage strategies to build organic matter in their soils.
Greeted by an array of demonstrations and educational materials just outside the Soil Health Center, visitors had the opportunity to learn about soil health and its far-reaching impacts. Soil and Water Conservation, USDA, and Cornell University personnel were present to answer questions and show first-hand some of the scientific principles behind soil health, and the impact that management has on the way soil is affected by rainfall events.
Tours of a nearby trial planting of many different cover crop varieties and mixes also took place daily, giving participants the chance to learn about the various species of cover crops and how they can be used to address specific crop production challenges, such as breaking up compaction or reducing pest populations.
The Soil Health Seminar Center has now been sponsored by Empire Farm Days for the fourth year, with continued support planned for future years. Many different groups came together to organize and conduct the events at the Soil Health Center, as part of the New York State Soil Health Workgroup: USDA-NRCS, Cornell University, Soil & Water Conservation Districts, The New York Farm Viability Institute, NYS Dept. of Agriculture & Markets, Ag. Businesses, consultants, and farmers. The cover crop trials and tours were sponsored by King’s AgriSeeds, Seedway, and Empire Farm Days.
Cedric Mason is a research support specialist at Cornell University.
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