Innovative Soil Health Collaboration
The Colorado Soil Health Initiative will assist agricultural producers in improving the productivity and resilience of their land. In partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), state Conservation Districts, Colorado State Conservation Board, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Water Quality Control Division, Colorado State University and the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Stations, funding will be leveraged to award new Healthy Soils Matching Grants to Colorado ag producers. Soil Specialists will help foster farmer to farmer learning, host workshops, and help producers connect with new market opportunities. Information will be updated on this page as the Soil Health Initiative continues to be developed and grow, so please check back regularly for updates.
Soil Health Initiative Background
The Soil Health Initiative began as a grassroots effort from the state’s Conservation Districts and was voted into action by the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts in 2018 and 2019. Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg made the healthy soil vision a leading strategy for achieving the agency’s mission to foster responsible stewardship of the environment and natural resources. The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) has spent more than a year engaging in a robust stakeholder process through the leadership of the Colorado Collaborative for Healthy Soils (CCHS) to gather input from agricultural groups and individual farmers and ranchers from across the state. Read the CCHS Annual Report.
Benefits and Participation
Participation in the Soil Health Initiative and all the resources provided will be entirely voluntary. CDA acknowledges that many agricultural producers are already engaged in soil stewardship of some sort. Through the initiative and partnership with CSU and NRCS, CDA will offer assistance to farmers and ranchers interested in building on what they are already doing. Improving soil health can offer numerous important co-benefits such as reducing water quality impacts, enhancing the capture of available moisture, and creating access to private ecosystem services markets.
There are many tools in the soil health toolbox. For example, practices such as planting cover crops and transitioning to no-till or continuous cropping practices can improve soil quality. Research has shown that grazing livestock on cover crops can hasten the process and enhance net profitability. The efficacy of these practices depends on the suite of variables farmers and ranchers manage each day. CDA is committed to supporting producers in advancing soil health in a way that works for their particular operation.