INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative for Soil Health and Productivity project is expanding to test conservation practices on typical soils across the state, mentor conservation-oriented farmers and inspire greater adoption of conservation systems by Indiana producers.

Four regional hubs — at the Purdue University Diagnostic Center, the Northeastern Purdue Agriculture Center/Wabash Farm, the Southeast Purdue Agriculture Center and a farm at Vincennes University managed by the Dubois County Soil and Water Conservation District — will host the ambitious demonstration and study plots for this three-year project.

Scientists will measure the impacts of a variety of conservation systems on soil health, nutrient cycling, soil water availability and plant growth. Practices in the study include long-term continuous no-till and strip-till, cover crops, precision technology and several nutrient and pest management practices.

In conjunction with the regional hubs, 12 farmers will host demonstration sites on their farms, comparing their current conservation systems with programs that introduce new practices.

The impacts of the new practices on soil health and an array of other variables will be measured and documented and comparisons with fields on the same or nearby farms will be made.

The farmers also will serve as mentors to producers interested in adopting new conservation tactics.

“We see great value in working with farmers to conduct trials in real time, in real conditions and on their own farms across the state,” said Mike Dunn, director of production and environment for the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and the Indiana Soybean Alliance. “The corn and soybean checkoff programs support this project to help farmers collect localized data that can help them make informed decisions when implementing conservation practices in their fields.”

Each regional hub represents soil types, climate and topography common to its area. The hubs will provide opportunities for hands-on learning, one-on-one communication and long-term evaluation of the adoption of soil health systems. They also put these demonstration plots within easy reach of nearly every farmer in the state.

Organizers aim to demonstrate the role of conservation practices in productive, profitable and sustainable systems.

“The overall goal of this project is to advance the implementation of conservation cropping systems across the state,” noted Jennifer Boyle Warner, executive director of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. “What makes the project unique is that it’s a public-private partnership. Combining the strengths of different sectors will ensure broader success.”

The Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative for Soil Health and Productivity project is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant.

Partners in the project include the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, the IASWCD, the Conservation Technology Information Center, Purdue, the Wabash County SWCD, the Dubois County SWCD, Vincennes University-Jasper Campus, the ISA and the ICMC.