Healthy Soil Challenge training for soil sleuths

4-H representatives from 12 Ohio counties gathered at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center this Saturday for a special training session. “Healthy Soils C.S.I. Challenge” is this year’s 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, sponsored by Monsanto, the National 4-H Council and the Ohio Soybean Council.

Past years’ experiences have included an aquaculture and honey bee challenge. This year, the focus is on recognizing good quality soil and how no-till farming promotes soil health. GrowNextGen teacher leader Jane Hunt told the group, “We’re hoping to move the needle on soil quality to make farming more sustainable.”

Dr. Bob Horton of Ohio 4-H led the participants through several activities that they’ll be using at county 4-H camps this summer, reaching between 1500 to 2000 youth here in Ohio. The “Healthy Soils C.S.I. Challenge” is set up as an investigation for children to identify an unlabeled soil sample and solve a farm’s problem with low crop yields. These activities included a Slake Test, a Chemical Test, and Visual Inspection to determine the health of their soil sample. The more healthy the soil, the more carbon is captured and the better yield from crops.

To help the farm promote soil health, the youth go through an Engineering Design challenge, using various materials to create and test a no-till planter. The goal: to develop a planter that will “open” and “close” rows for planting with the least amount of intrusion. Their prototypes are then tested in a field test site to determine the effectiveness of their design.

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