The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District teamed up with Ark Valley Writing and Planning Services to host the first Soil Health Advisory Council, May 17 in the town of McClave. Persons from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the National Resources Conservation Service and several farmers attended to take part in discussions about soil health awareness in the lower Arkansas Valley.   A primary point of discussion throughout the meeting was that of communicating and advocating soil health practices, such as implementing cover crops, minimum tillage, administering less inputs and looking at grazing practices.   The group was in agreement that the results from experiments with soil health need to be shared among farmers and the world of agriculture.   It was acknowledged by several group members that soil health and conservancy did not appear to be a high priority among farmers in the Arkansas Valley. Crops got all the attention - until now.   "... You’ve gotta get projects so you can do the ‘Show Me,’” said LAVWCD General Manager Jay Winner. “Then dump it from an airplane at 50,000 feet to the world, that this is how we improve the soil.”   But what does a ‘Show Me’ consist of?Demonstration plots.   The group talked about the need to have demonstration plots that farmers can visit and observe in real time soil health practices and their effects on a field.   Amber Weber of Ark Valley Writing and Planning Services said the Soil Health Advisory Council now has a live website, where she’s been dumping convention dates and links to resources, and she’s created a YouTube channel the group can use to show off soil health practices being put to use on real Colorado farms.”   I can go out to Derek’s farm, fly a drone, interview, and we can stick him up there on the YouTube channel and the website,” said Weber. “So they can see actual people from their area doing something and it’s not just from South Dakota, Iowa, wherever. ... It gives it a bit more validity.”   Demonstration plots will include flood irrigation, sprinkler/drip irrigation and dry land farming; ideally, each method will be practiced in a variety of environments to allow researchers to account for many combinations of variables.   Farmers who attended the meeting brought their own experiences with different irrigation methods, cover crops and other strategies.   Nick Rusler, who farms with his family near Pueblo, said he’s been experimenting with cover crops for about four years now. After harvest, cover crop residue helps retain moisture when its mixed into the soil. Rusler said he’s trying to find the right balance of cover crops for the soil.   Another farmer at the meeting, Phillip Chavez, farms in Colorado as well as Arizona. Chavez told the group an anecdote about his own experiences with soil tillage and cover crops. His family reacquired some land from a lessee who’d planted a crop on it that they didn’t want. They tilled the crop under the soil and, come next harvest, ended up with four tons more hay in their next crop rotation.   A problem with advocating soil health practices identified by the group is that farmers often rely on intergenerational knowledge handed down to them and that breaching into new technologies isn’t always an easy venture, stressing the need for a network of soil information and resources. In addition to the website and a YouTube channel, the group identified radio spots, podcasts and other forms of advertising as opportunities to spread their message of soil health advocacy.   The group determined that Weber would be the face of soil health. She will serve as a field tester and web master, as well as assist in communications and networking.   Mike Weber, LAVWCD engineer, will be responsible for supplying technical data and cost/benefit analysis of projects, while the CDPHE, EPA and NRCS will provide scientific resources and information.   In addition to experimenting with and recording the results of soil health practices on demonstration plots, the group will concern itself with studying the potential economic impacts their research will indicate.   McClave will be the meeting place for Soil Health Advisory Council meetings and events because of its centralized location for members. When meetings are scheduled, that information will be shared with the public.   cburney@ljtdmail.com