The Natural Resources Conservation Service and Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service will host listening sessions of a live broadcast of the Feb. 18 National Cover Crop and Soil Health Conference in Omaha, Neb., beginning at 8:45 a.m. in Conway, Keiser, Marianna, Monticello, Pine Bluff and Stuttgart.

Conference speakers will discuss how to build soil health, improve yields, curb erosion, manage pests and build resilience in farming system. Farmers will have the opportunity to learn from one another while exploring local and national perspectives on cover crops. 

The forums are open to anyone who would like to hear about and discuss the prospects for cover crops and soil health improvements on Arkansas farms and ranches.

The forums will open with a live video internet-stream featuring Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Howard G. Buffett, followed by panel presentations from leading cover crop farmers from across the nation.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of acres being managed with cover crops as a part of the cropping system in Arkansas,” said state conservationist Mike Sullivan. “These local forums represent a way to include farmers, educators and researchers across the state in the emerging conversation about the use and benefits of cover crops and soil health management.”

Both the national conference and the local forums are jointly funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, with planning support from NRCS, the Midwest Cover Crops Council and the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

The national conference will bring together key leaders, researchers, innovators and policy makers in American agriculture to examine the benefits, opportunities and challenges associated with improving the health and function of our soils through the adoption of soil health management systems. Attendees of the local forums will also have the opportunity to contribute ideas and comments on cover crops and soil health back to the leadership group at the national conference. These comments will be collected by staff at the local sites as part of the local discussion process.

“These forums will provide an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to exchange information, discuss opportunities for collaboration, and learn about new and successful practices related to cover crops and soil health,” said John Lee, NRCS state agronomist. “We hope that many producers will attend the forums and will come prepared and ready to share with us their questions and ideas.”

The local forum locations and moderators are:

  • Faulkner County Cooperative Extension Service, 110 South Amity Rd., Conway, Ark. Moderator – Debbie Moreland.                                 
  • Northeast Research and Extension Center, 1241 West County Rd., Keiser, Ark. Moderator – Charles Glover.
  • Lon Mann Cotton Research Station, AR Hwy 1 South, Marianna, Ark. Moderator – Alvin Peer.
  • Southeast Research and Extension Center, 1408 Scogin Drive, Monticello, Ark. Moderator – Andrew Wargo.                               
  • S.J. Parker Agricultural Research Complex, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff,  1200 North University, Pine Bluff, Ark. Moderator – Dr. Leslie Glover.
  • Stuttgart Rice Experiment Station, 2900 Hwy 130 East, Stuttgart, Ark. Moderator – Mike Daniels.

Check-in for the forums will begin at 8:15 a.m.  Please RSVP Quentin Sereal at (501) 301-3115 or email quentin.sereal@ar.usda.gov to ensure adequate seating.  For more information, contact John Lee at (501) 301-3173 or email john.lee@ar.usda.gov, or visit www.sare.org/covercropconference.