April 1 lecture looks at secrets of the soil, sustainability

Friday, March 14, 2014

AMES, Iowa – “When it comes to building healthy, productive soils, remember,” says Ray Archuleta in one of his many soil health videos, “do not disturb.”

The charismatic spokesperson for the unseen secrets of soil, Archuleta visits Iowa State University this year as the 2014 Shivvers Memorial Lecture speaker. His presentation will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 1 in the Sun Room of the ISU Memorial Union. The series is coordinated by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

Archuleta, “The Soil Guy,” is a conservation agronomist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Greensboro, North Carolina. In the 23 years he has worked for the USDA, he has promoted soil-building practices that improve water quality, reduce erosion, maintain soil micro-ecosystems, and ultimately boost the productivity of crops. During his lecture at ISU he will discuss how modern-day farming practices that improve soil health allow rural communities “to absorb disturbance and maintain function” into the future.

Leopold Center Distinguished Fellow Fred Kirschenmann explains that Archuleta’s focus on soil-building practices, such as using cover crops or no-till methods, provides farmers with long-term advantages.

“Healthy soil can absorb more water during times of flooding and retain more moisture during drought periods to sustain crops,” says Kirschenmann, a long-time North Dakota orgnanic farmer. “It also sequesters more carbon—and these are all services that will become increasingly crucial as climate change plays out. Restoring the biological health of soil is therefore one of the most pressing tasks before us.”

Coinciding with Archuleta’s April 1 visit is a pop-up art show, a series of poster-sized collages made by a group of students from Ames High School. The students teamed up with the Lexicon of Sustainability project to highlight Iowa’s role in cultivating local, sustainable food systems. They presented their posters last fall in Washington, D.C., and will be available to visit with the public about their work in the Sun Room at 6:30 p.m., as well as after Archuleta’s presentation.
There is more than one Iowa opportunity to learn from Archuleta about soils on April 1. The Soil Guy will conduct a free morning workshop at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy and Environmental Education in Cedar Falls. The workshop is hosted by the Black Hawk Soil and Water Conservation District, Iowa NRCS and the Cedar River Watershed Coalition.  

Established in 1969, the Shivvers Memorial Lecture spotlights distinguished speakers who promote agricultural practices that sustain natural resources, protecting and improving rural landscapes and livelihoods. Co-sponsors for the lecture series are the ISU Committee on Lectures and the ISU Chapter of the Gamma Sigma Delta Honorary Society for Agriculture.

For more information, including links to Archuleta’s videos and other resources, visit the Leopold Center’s event page for this year’s Shivvers Lecture: www.leopold.iastate.edu/news/calendar/2014-04-01/shivvers-soil-health-archuleta


Laura Miller, Leopold Center communications, (515) 294-5272, lwmiller@iastate.edu