4-H Soil Health Project Ideas

Oklahoma and Texas now have Soil Health Achievement Awards for 4-H: a $1,200 scholarship will be given to a 4-H’er who has excelled in learning and teaching about soil health. The Soil Carbon Coalition and the Dixon Watershed Foundation pioneered these awards: Why? We know that soil health is key to agricultural productivity, clean water, food security, protection against flooding and drought, biodiversity, and human health. These are exactly the kinds of things that are important to 4-H clubs: and they offer wonderful opportunities to make a difference in the land, water, and community that surrounds you.

Does your 4-H club want to get involved?
Here are some of our project ideas, but we know you will

have plenty more, and we will update these. We’d love to hear more about what you are doing, and answer any questions you have. Please email Didi Pershouse at landlisteners@gmail.com to give us a report.

1. GET SOME BACKGROUND—LEARN THE BASICS OF SOIL HEALTH

2. TRY SOME EXPERIMENTS and SHARE the results

  • Take a walk in the rain and notice where rain is soaking in and where it is staying on the surface or running off. Look for erosion, standing water puddles, or run-off as possible signs of deteriorating soil health. Upload geo-located photos to our map of soil health at http://atlasbiowork.com
  • Give a talk about the effect of soil aggregation on flooding and drought, using the flour vs. bread demonstration. Try it with your family at the dinner table first!
  • You can find instructions for a bunch of different types of monitoring in our Field Methods for Monitoring Soil Health and Watershed Function
  • The first one you might try is to make some water infiltration testing rings (or get them from the NRCS and sharpen them on one end). Here’s a water infiltration video to show how to do it. Test water infiltration times on several differently managed pieces of land and upload the results to a map through www.atlasbiowork.com
  • Make your own rainfall simulator, and give a talk.
  • Try doing a soil slake test with soil from a variety of places.
  • Soil your underpants! Get several pairs of “tighty whitey” 100 percent cotton underpants and BURY them in the soil at the same depth at a bunch of different places (a conventional cornfield, a farm using no-till, an organic farm, a pasture, etc.) Put a marker and make a map using a GPS. Wait 8 weeks and dig them up to see how well the soil organisms are decomposing organic matter to turn it into topsoil. Take a picture of each of the results, while standing at the spot where it was buried, and upload the picture directly to www.atlasbiowork.com in the "photo" observation form.
  • Try sweeping a bug net through the air above a field. See how many bugs you catch, and how many of each species. Try it in a bunch of different kinds of farms, using different kinds of management. What do the results tell you about the relationship between soil health and biodiversity?
  • Try answering the soil health questions in the observation forms on http://atlasbiowork.com
    for several differently managed farms, and upload your answers.
  • Plant some pollinator strips and see what happens…