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Oklahoma Conservation Commission starts new soil health program

Soil is the most diverse habitat on the planet and home to over half of life on Earth, according to a study from the National Academy of Sciences.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Soil is the most diverse habitat on the planet and home to over half of life on Earth, according to a study from the National Academy of Sciences.

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission is working to improve soil health around the state.

Farmers and ranchers can receive up to $40,000 over three years to put soil health practices in place through the Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s Soil Health Implementation Program.

The initiative will collect data to improve the state’s soil health database and conduct educational outreach.

Conservation methods like no-till and grazing management are common practices used to help overall soil health and erosion. The commission's soil health director, Greg Kloxin, said the goal is to emulate the natural landscape.

“And at the end of the day soil health, I’ll just say generally from a 30,000-foot perspective, it’s really looking at agriculture from a natural systems perspective,” Kloxin said.

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was the largest man-made ecological disaster and it served as a wake-up call for conservation practices. Because of the “Dirty Thirties,” Kloxin said the state is a leader in soil health practices.

Although the methods are not new, he said the program is meant to reconnect to the roots of conservation.

“And looking at soil not as an inert material from which we draw resources for our livestock and our farming operations, plant seeds within and that kind of thing,” Kloxin said. “But looking at it as a living system and implementing those management techniques and practices that actually promote that concept.”

Although putting new methods is a long-term process, building up soil has a positive economic impact. A study from the Soil Health Institute found soil health practices reduce costs over time and increase yield production and net income.

Kloxin said the implementation program is meant to be an incentive. Most of the commission’s cost-share programs last for a year but in the new project, it will work with producers over three years to help develop a plan.

Applications for the program open on January 1 and close March 1. The commission will review and rank applications to spread funds around the conservation districts across the state.

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Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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