Minnesota Pilot Project Soil Sampling is Underway!

In early fall 2020, The Nature Conservancy and ESMC launched a pilot in Minnesota to help farmers receive financial benefits for their regenerative agricultural practices which help improve soil health, sequester carbon in the soil, and reduce nutrient runoff from fields. With a target of enrolling 50,000 corn and soybean acres over three years in central MN, the pilot is leveraging existing cost share and technical assistance funding from project partners, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Five producers have enrolled six fields identified for soil sampling and a soil sampling crew led by Stearns Co. SWCD staff arrived at the snow-covered pilot fields just in time to pull samples before the ground freezes for the winter. The sites, within the Sauk Watershed in Central Minnesota, were sampled using a Giddings probe provided by the local USDA NRCS office at field locations generated by the Soil Sampling Stratification App process under development by OurSci as part of ongoing ESMRC research projects. Watch the Giddings Probe sampling in action here.

This work is part of a collaborative effort led by the Minnesota Chapter of The Nature Conservancy involving more than 18 partners, including NRCS and Truterra, LLC, sustainability business of Land O’Lakes.

Producers are working with the local SWCD and their ag retail advisors at Centra Sota Coop to collect agronomic management data through the Truterra™ Insights Engine that will be used by ESMC along with the soil sampling results to quantify soil carbon sequestration, reduced GHG emissions, and improved water quality outcomes.

“North America has always served as the breadbasket to the world. We can also now serve as a global model, demonstrating how farmers and conservationists can work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals. We are showing that through best-management practices and targeted conservation projects we can achieve a triple win: lower farming costs, produce more food, and conserve healthy lands and waters for the next generation,” said Leif Fixen, The Nature Conservancy’s Agriculture Strategy Manager.

The soil carbon sampling will establish baseline measurements for farmers to generate credits through ESMC’s Ecosystem Services Market as they implement conservation practices that improve soil health and water quality. The research results will help ESMC refine and streamline soil carbon measurement methods, improve efficiencies, and bring more of the market value back to farmer participants.

Photos show project partners collecting soil samples in enrolled fields; courtesy of the Minnesota Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

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