Southeast Department of Agriculture Hosts Annual Missouri Soil Health Consortium

20160504_113121The Southeast Missouri State University Department of Agriculture in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently hosted the 2016 Missouri Soil Health Consortium at the David. M. Barton Agriculture Research Center.

The consortium brings together experts from across Missouri and neighboring states to exchange ideas and research. This year marked the first time Southeast has been selected to host the annual event.

One of the main reasons Southeast was selected was because of the new advances and research the department has done with subsurface drainage and irrigations systems, said Dr. Michael Aide, chair of Southeast’s Department of Agriculture.

“Southeast has the biggest subsurface technology system in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s a new piece of technology that’s being replicated throughout the nation.”

The large-soil projects is part of a pilot program with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service to pump nutrient impacted water onto fields, cleanse the drained water and return it to the local water system. Research has shown positive results for reducing hazardous nitrate concentrations and promoting water and soil health.

Presenters included Aide; Dr. Indi Braden, Southeast professor of agronomy, plant and soil science; and representatives from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Delta Soil Health Alliance, the University of Missouri Fisher Delta Research Center and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Topics included companion and cover crops, drainage water management, residue management, and forest and wetland natural areas.

Dr. Michael Aide, chair of Southeast's Department of Agriculture, discusses irrigation and drainage systems with Southeast students (from left to right) Billy Curtis, Andrew Mueller and Duncan Ross.

Dr. Michael Aide, chair of Southeast’s Department of Agriculture, discusses irrigation and drainage systems with Southeast students (from left to right) Billy Curtis, Andrew Mueller and Duncan Ross.

For the Southeast students, the consortium is an opportunity to expand their education outside their specific major, said Aide.

“It was interesting to learn more about how efficient our bioreactor is,” said Andrew Mueller, a senior agribusiness major from Jackson, Missouri. “It’s cool to see how interested other people are about it and get ideas to make their own.”

Exchanging and cultivating ideas is the main purpose for the annual consortium, said Mark Nussbaum, area engineer for the USDA-NRCS.

“There’s never a substitute for face to face communication,” said Nussbaum. “This is where ideas are exchanged, the beginnings of peer review can take place and more papers and research is planned.”

Focusing their efforts on positive and effective techniques of soil health will promote and sustain Missouri’s agriculture industry while maximizing healthy profitability of the crops, Nussbaum said.

Southeast’s David. M. Barton Agriculture Research Center is poised at the forefront of irrigation and irrigation sustainability for the area and the nation, he said.

“Dr. Aide and the Center are rolling out some great and interesting projects,” he said.

For more information about Southeast’s Department of Agriculture and the David. M. Barton Agriculture Research Center, visit http://www.semo.edu/agriculture/.