Soil Health Institute Announces Methods for Evaluating Soil Health at a Continental Scale,
Anticipates Actionable Data for Farmers, Ranchers and Policymakers by 2020
WASHINGTON, May 18, 2018 – Soil health is gaining widespread attention because it promotes agricultural practices that are not only good for the farmer and rancher, but also good for the environment.
The lack of widely-applicable measurements and methods for assessing soil health has been a significant barrier to evaluating and adopting soil health practices and systems and ultimately ensuring sustainable agricultural productivity in the long term.
To address this need the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded the Soil Health Institute (SHI), in collaboration with the Soil Health Partnership and The Nature Conservancy, a $9.4 million grant to advance soil health science and implement soil health management practices. The grant was matched by additional donors for a total investment of nearly $20 million. A full press release for the project can be found here.
A major goal for the project is to assess the ability of soil health indicators to detect differences in properties of soils that have been managed in different ways for at least 10 years. To gather useful data, it became necessary to identify the particular analytical method for each indicator being evaluated in the project. The Institute convened a panel of experts from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), several universities and the private sector to develop consensus on how each of 19 soil health indicators should be measured.
“The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research applauds the Soil Health Institute for establishing standard soil health measurements that will be applicable across geographies,” said Sally Rockey, executive director, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. “This milestone, made possible by a FFAR grant, lays important groundwork for critical innovation in the future that will equip farmers and policymakers to make data-driven decisions to optimize soil health and long term agricultural productivity.”
By project conclusion in 2020, the Soil Health Institute expects to have the data required for recommending scientifically-sound soil health indicators to help farmers, scientists, ag policy makers, and others answer the fundamental question: Just how healthy are our soils?
FFAR is supporting this collaborative project through its Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Challenge Area, which aims to increase soil health by building knowledge, fueling innovation and enabling adoption of existing or novel practices that improve soil health. To date, FFAR has awarded more than $13 million in grants and leveraged an additional $15 million from partners to improve soil health through innovative research.
SHI encourages individuals and organizations who are engaged in long-term (minimum 10-year) agricultural field experiments in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and interested in participating to visit the SHI website and submit an application to participate in the project by May 31, 2018.