Student Soil Sleuths Dig In to Learn About the Importance of Soil Health in 2017 4-H Ag Innovators Experience

By kara April 04, 2017

Chevy Chase, Md. (April 4, 2017) – Students from five states across the Midwest are set to take on the Healthy Soils Carbon Soil Investigation Challenge as part of the 2017 4‑H Ag Innovators Experience (4‑H AIE) activity. The Healthy Soils Challenge engages youth to learn about soil health, sustainable environmental practices and the need to be good stewards of the land. The 4‑H AIE is a collaboration between the National 4‑H Council and Monsanto Company.

The two-part, collaborative, hands-on challenge, developed by The Ohio State University, helps youth to not only discover the composition of soil, but also understand the impact of tilling soil and explore new ways to farm with less disruption to the soil ecosystem. Students in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio will have the opportunity to participate in the Healthy Soils Challenge.

In part one of the Challenge, youth will work in teams to discover what healthy soil looks like and conduct tests to determine the overall soil health. Once they reach a conclusion, teams recycle their soil sample in take-out potting containers and plant a package of seeds in ready-to-take-home containers.

The second part of the challenge focuses on finding a solution to keep good soils from going bad. Using tiny robots that react to their environment, teams will design, build and test a 1:64 scale no-till planter that disrupts the least amount of soil when planting, minimizes equipment drag and reduces soil compacting. By the end of the activity, youth will understand how properly maintained soil can help reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint.

“As we face a world population that will exceed 9 billion by 2050, the agriculture industry has a real challenge to feed a growing number of people while protecting our finite environmental resources,” said National 4‑H Council President and CEO Jennifer Sirangelo. “Today’s youth will play a critical role in future agriculture innovation. The ability to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills, such as those needed for the Healthy Soils Challenge, will be imperative to address real-world issues.”

The 4‑H AIE seeks to help youth develop workforce skills and drive innovation using science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In three years, the program has already engaged nearly 25,000 youth and succeeded in making STEM concepts relevant and fun with activities across select states in the Midwest.

“Monsanto is excited to continue our longstanding partnership with the National 4‑H Council for the Ag Innovators Experience,” said Mark Martino, National 4‑H Council board member and Vice President, Global Crop Protection Supply Chain Operations for Monsanto Company. “Activities like the Healthy Soils Challenge help educate young people about real-world challenges and explore sustainable agriculture solutions through STEM-focused activities. Programs like the Ag Innovators Experience provides young people the analytical and leadership skills needed to develop into the leaders of tomorrow.”

The Healthy Soils Challenge will take place from March – July 2017 at various sites, including traditional 4‑H clubs, 4‑H camps, school enrichment and 4‑H Afterschool settings. To learn more about the 4‑H Ag Innovators Experience, visit the 4‑H and Monsanto Partnership.

About 4‑H

4 H, the nation’s largest youth development organization, grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for career tomorrow. 4 H programs empower nearly six million young people across the U.S. through experiences that develop critical life skills. 4 H is the youth development program of our nation’s Cooperative Extension System and USDA, and serves every county and parish in the U.S. through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3000 local Extension offices. Globally, 4 H collaborates with independent programs to empower one million youth in 50 countries. The research-backed 4 H experience grows young people who are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs.

Learn more about 4‑H at 4‑, find us on Facebook at and on Twitter at

About Monsanto

Monsanto is committed to bringing a broad range of solutions to help nourish our growing world. We produce a variety of seeds ranging from fruits and vegetables to key crops – such as corn, soybeans, and cotton – that help farmers produce abundant and nutritious food. We work to find sustainable agriculture solutions that help farmers conserve natural resources, use data to improve farming practices, use water and other important resources more efficiently, and protect their crops from pests and disease. Through programs and partnerships, we collaborate with farmers, researchers, nonprofit organizations, universities and others to help tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. To learn more about Monsanto, our commitments and our more than 20,000 dedicated employees, please visit: and Follow our business on Twitter® at, on the company blog, Beyond the Rows® at or subscribe to our News Release RSS Feed.