Soil Health and Organic Farming Webinar Series

The Organic Farming Research Foundation and eOrganic presented a series of 9 webinars focused on soil health topics: building organic matter, weed management, conservation tillage, cover crops, plant breeding and variety selection, water management and quality, nutrient management, and more! This series is recommended for farmers, extension agents, educators, agricultural professionals, and others interested in building soil health. Presenters Mark Schonbeck and Diana Jerkins of the Organic Farming Research Foundation reviewed the most recent research on soil health practices and explored how organic growers can build healthy soils on their operations. The webinars provide practical guidelines for growers and in-depth analysis of research outcomes. Scroll down to view the recordings, slides and accompanying presentation notes. The Organic Farming Research Foundation has also produced a series of Soil Health Guides which cover the topics in these webinars. Download the guides at

May 9, 2018: Building Organic Matter for Healthy Soils: An Overview

We will discuss the attributes of healthy soil, the central role of organic matter, and how to monitor and enhance soil health in organic production. The presentation will outline key organic practices for building soil organic matter and optimizing soil functions in relation to fertility, crop yield, and resource conservation.


Slide handout

June 13, 2018: Weed Management: An Ecological Approach

This webinar will focus on integrated organic weed management tools and practices that give crops the edge over weeds, build soil health, and reduce the need for soil disturbance. Slide handout

September 19, 2018: Practical Conservation Tillage

This webinar includes the impacts of tillage on soil health, including practical, soil-friendly tillage practices for organic systems. We will discuss several newer tillage tools and approaches that reduce adverse impacts on soil life and soil structure.

Slide handout, Presentation notes

October 17, 2018: Cover Crops: Selection and Management

This webinar will focus on selecting the best cover crops, mixes, and management methods for soil health, including crop rotations and cropping system biodiversity.

Slide handout, Presentation notes

November 14, 2018: ´╗┐Plant Genetics: Plant Breeding and Variety Selection

This webinar will cover plant breeding and variety selection for performance in sustainable organic systems, including nutrient and moisture use efficiency, competitiveness toward weeds, and enhanced interactions with beneficial soil biota. We will also discuss heritable traits that could directly benefit soil biology and soil health.


 Slide handout Presentation notes

January 9, 2019: ´╗┐Water Management and Water Quality

This webinar will focus on the role of soil health and organic soil management in water conservation and water quality. 

Slide handout, Presentation notes

February 20, 2019: Nutrient Management for Crops, Soil and the Environment

This webinar includes a discussion of the role of soil health and the soil food web, including practical guidelines for optimizing crop nutrition, minimizing adverse environmental impacts of organic fertility inputs, and adapting soil test-based nutrient recommendations (especially N) for organic systems.

Slide handout, Presentation notes

March 20, 2019: Organic Practices for Climate Mitigation, Adaptation, and Carbon Sequestration

In this webinar, we will discuss the capacity of sustainable organic systems and practices to sequester soil carbon, minimize nitrous oxide and methane emissions during crop and livestock production, and enhance agricultural resilience to weather extremes. The presentation will include practical guidelines for optimizing the organic farm’s “carbon footprint” and adaptability to climate disruptions already underway.

Slide handout, Presentation notes

May 22, 2019: Understanding and Managing Soil Biology for Soil Health and Crop Production

This webinar will examine the functions of the soil food web and key components thereof in promoting soil health and fertility and sustainable organic crop production. Research-based guidance on organic practices and NOP-approved inputs for improved soil food web function will be discussed.

Slide handout, Presentation notes

About the Presenters

Mark Schonbeck is a Research Associate at the Organic Farming Research Foundation. He has worked for 31 years as a researcher, consultant, and educator in sustainable and organic agriculture. He has participated in on-farm research into mulching, cover crops, minimum tillage, and nutrient management for organic vegetables. For many years, he has written for the Virginia Association for Biological Farming newsletter and served as their policy liason to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. He has also participated in different research projects to analyze, evaluate and improve federally funded organic and sustainable agriculture programs. In addition, Mark offers individual consulting in soil test interpretation, soil quality and nutrient management, crop rotation, cover cropping, and weed management.

Diana Jerkins is the Research Program Director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation. She has decades of experience in agricultural research, federal program management, university administration and hands-on farming. She was a National Program Leader with the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) between 2002 and 2014, and she helped implement the agency’s first sustainable and organic agriculture programs. 

Thank you to the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation for supporting this project.

Published April 5, 2018

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.