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Network- based approaches for soil health research and extension programming in North Dakota, USA

Agricultural Communications Documentation Center (ACDC)
Wick, Abbey F. (main author), Haley, Jean (author), Gasch, Caley (author), Wehlander, Terry (author), Briese, Lee (author), Samson‐Liebig, Susan (author)
Online journal article
Publication Date:
Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, Funk Library, University of Illinois
Subject Term:
communication barriers, communication methods, communication networks, extension, farmer education, farmers, information dissemination, information needs, North Dakota, USA, soil conservation, discussion groups, social media
8 pages., via online journal., Farmer adoption of practices to build soil health can be enhanced using a knowledge network supported by programs and resources that incorporate technical, social and experiential learning pathways. University Extension plays a critical role in building and supporting the knowledge network by serving as (a) a boundary organization to create space for conversations to occur, (b) network manager to facilitate learning and (c) builder of social capital to encourage trust in the network. The North Dakota State University (NDSU) Soil Health Program was used to illustrate the above approach. Between 2014 and 2016, 32 informal discussion groups, called Soil Health Café Talks, reached 156 individuals. A knowledge network of all participants was developed using NodeXL. The 10 most influential individuals in the network included two scientists, five farmers, one crop consultant and two Extension specialists. All non‐NDSU participants received an evaluation form. Respondents increased their frequency of discussing cover crops with other individuals and increased sharing equipment across farming operations (i.e., vertical tillage implements and no‐till drills). Of the topics discussed, over 25% of respondents adopted practices using cover crops (interseeding and using cover crops for weed control and adjusting rotations to incorporate cover crops) as a result of attending Café Talks. Respondents also increased their use of NDSU Soil Health online resources such as Twitter (22%), YouTube (23%) and the web page (21%) as follow‐up information to Café Talks. Network‐based approaches have proven to be successful in encouraging on‐farm adoption of soil health‐building practices.