A file photo of Earl Creech sifting through soil during a dry year.

TAYLORSVILLE — For those involved in the agricultural industry, the health of soil may be one of the most important to the success of any operation.

A file photo of Scott Kent holding some rich soil builder or worm casting he is creating at his North Logan worm operation.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) Soil Health wants to help producers by holding their second Biannual Soil Health in the West Conference. The conference will be held in St. George at the Dixie Convention Center located at 1835 S Convention Center Dr. St. George, on February 6-8, 2024.

Because most of Utah is a high desert environment implementing soil principles such as keeping the soil covered has shown a decrease in soil temperature as much as 40°F and it reduces water loss from evaporation in some cases to zero. Managing a farm for soil health can increase the organic matter content of the soil by sequestering carbon; each 1% increase in soil organic matter increases the soil water holding capacity by 16,000 to 24,000 gallons per acre.

Craig Buttars, UDAF Commissioner said it is important to understand what healthy soil can do improve production.

“The importance of maintaining healthy soils is not a strange concept to Utah’s farmers and ranchers. UDAF’s Soil Health Program has been working to expand these efforts since its creation in 2021.” Buttars said. “The Soil Health in the West Conference is a great way to share information about soil health practices and resources with producers in Utah and throughout the Western United States.”

Tony Richards UDAF Soil Health Program Manager said the Soil Health in the West Conference brings together world experts and regional soil health practitioners under one roof for a multi-day learning and networking opportunity unlike any other in the Western United States.

Good soil is valuable to producers in Utah.

“Research is showing that by implementing the six soil health principles using practices such as no-till and cover crops we can make farms resilient to weather extremes like drought and flood while increasing profitability through reduction in input costs.” he said. “Healthy s oils capture and store more water, better cycle nutrients, and are protected against erosion.”

This year’s conference will bring 29 different speakers covering topics from livestock grazing and soil health to soil health and its impact on water availability.

Keynote Speakers this time will be:

Alejandro Carrillo, a fourth-generation rancher in the Chihuahuan desert. Rarely does his precipitation go beyond 9” per year (< 230mm). Every drop counts to grow more and better grasses and forbs with little water in such a brittle environment if he wants to graze year-round without input.

Joel Saltin, a farmer, author, speaker, and mentor who is as comfortable moving cows in a pasture as he is addressing CEOs in a Wall Street business conference. He co-owns Polyface Farm with his family in Swoope, Virginia. He has written over a dozen books, serves as the editor of The Stockton Grass Farmer, and co-hosts the Beyond Labels foodscape research podcast.

FILE – Farmers in Utah and around the country could benefit from a partnership involving the U.S.D.A. and NASA, which should lead to a better understanding of soil moisture levels as growers continue to deal with historic drought. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Commerce.

When he’s not on the road speaking, Joel is mentoring young people, inspiring visitors, and promoting local, regenerative food and farming systems.

Other speakers include farmers and ranchers from around the region including Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

For more information and to register for the conference, visit utahsoilhealth.org/events/2024-conference.







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