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Optimizing Soil Health to Fight Climate Change

Optimizing Soil Health to Fight Climate Change

Team of UVM researchers join $23M nationwide effort to help U.S. dairy farmers improve sustainability through optimal soil health management.

Over the past decade, Vermont dairy farmers have taken steps to become more sustainable through on-farm practices like cover cropping, conservation tillage and other soil health management strategies. Now, a team of University of Vermont researchers has joined a nationwide effort to quantify the impact of these practices and evaluate the potential for the U.S. dairy industry to reach net zero environmental goals by 2050.

The goals, set by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, include becoming carbon neutral or better, optimizing water use, and improving water quality. The targets are part of the Net Zero Initiative, a collaboration of U.S. dairy organizations, scientists and researchers working to help farms adopt sustainable practices in feed production, cow care and manure management, identify new market opportunities and address research gaps.

“We’re looking for a win-win for how farms can be part of the climate change solution and maintain financial viability,” said Joshua Faulkner, of UVM’s Department of Plant and Soil Science and UVM Extension. “We think that healthy soils can potentially play a role in carbon sequestration and water quality, but there are a lot of unknowns in terms of the optimal soil management strategies for different farming systems with different climates and soils.”

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