close up of green corn stalks growing in soil close up of green corn stalks growing in soil

FFAR Awards $9.4 Million to Spur Next Leap in Agriculture: Improved Soil Health to Optimize Economic and Environmental Results for U.S. Farmers

Generating Soil Health Solutions
Generating Soil Health Solutions

Program Contact

Dr. LaKisha Odom

Wayne Honeycutt

President and CEO of the Soil Health Institute

Year Awarded  2017

FFAR award amount   $9,400,000

Total award amount   $20,000,000

Location   Morrisville, NC

Matching Funders   General Mills, the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, Monsanto (Bayer), Nestlé Purina PetCare Company, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Walmart Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and individual donors

  • Soil Health

There is no standardized measurement for soil health in the United States; instead, different sets of measurements and methods can conflict and confuse farmers and field conservationists. Furthermore, many landowners of rented farmland are not aware of the benefits soil health improvements can deliver. This project will help the industry adopt standardized measurements to evaluate and improve soil health while expanding education and tools for local farmers, agronomists and landowners.

The needs for advancing soil health are far greater than any single organization can provide – public or private. That’s why this project is so important. It leverages public funds authorized by Congress through the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research with resources provided by other foundations and corporations through the combined capacities of the Soil Health Institute, Soil Health Partnership and The Nature Conservancy. This kind of partnership creates a way to advance soil health for the benefit of all who need safe, high-quality products from agriculture, natural resources to sustain human and all other life, thriving communities and a strong economy. In other words, it benefits everyone. Wayne Honeycutt
President and CEO of the Soil Health Institute

Why this research is important

Soil health is a critical component of a productive and sustainable agricultural system. Farming practices that improve soil health can increase profitability while protecting natural resources like air and water for communities. The goal of this project is to support collaborative research and education that accelerates adoption and benefits of soil health management systems nationally.

If we can unlock the potential of healthy soil, we can move closer to a sustainable agricultural system for everyone. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research is pleased to harness the power of collaboration by supporting three leading organizations in this space for the long-term benefit of our nation’s farmers and food system. Sally Rockey, Ph.D.
Executive Director Emeritus

Details About this Research

Collaborators will take an integrated, three-pronged approach. The Soil Health Institute will develop and test soil health measurements; the Soil Health Partnership will implement and evaluate soil health promoting practices on working farms; and The Nature Conservancy will work with non-operator landowners to encourage use of science-based soil health practices. The partners believe significant engagement with farmers and landowners will catalyze greater adoption of soil health promoting practices that benefit productivity, farmer livelihoods and the environment.

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Our Insights highlight unique perspectives from across the food and agriculture community.

See all Insights

Advancing Ecosystem Service Markets for Sustainable Farming

LaKisha Odom & DJ May

A Place for Everyone in Agriculture

Dr. LaKisha Odom & Jocelyn Hittle

Finding a New Way to Control Weeds in Cotton.

Sarah Chu

Sarah Chu

FFAR Fellow, Texas A&M University

The “Good Soil Discount” — A Game Changer for U.S. Agriculture

Harley Cross

Harley Cross

Land Core Co-founder & Director of Strategy

Organic Ag Podcast Features Innovative Industry Topics

Kathleen Delate

Professor, Organic Agriculture Program, Iowa State University 

Building Bridges Between Academics & Farmers

Elizabeth Ellis

FFAR Fellow, Elizabeth Ellis

Manure – Waste or Resource?

Manny Sabbagh

University of Minnesota

Diversifying the Future of Venture Capital

The first cohort of the HBCU Kirchner Fellows are Bryana Pittman, Kwame Jackson and Martin Adu-Boahene who co-wrote this Insights piece to share the value of this fellowship and its potential impact.

Can Adding Carbon to the Soil Help us Manage Weeds?

Maria Gannett

2019-2022 FFAR Fellow

Taking Science Beyond the Bench: Critical Reflections for Change-Oriented Research

Krista Marshall

2019-2022 FFAR Fellow

Soil is Not Dirt

Aaron Prairie

2020-2023 FFAR Fellow

Fine-tuning photosynthesis

Dhruv Patel

2019-2022 FFAR Fellow

Can biochar help adapt agriculture to a hotter, dryer climate?

Shelby Hoglund

2018-2021 FFAR Fellow

Milkweeds: Medicine for Monarchs?

Annie Krueger

2018-2021 FFAR Fellow

The Time is RIPE for Agricultural Innovation

Sally Rockey, Ph.D.

Executive Director Emeritus


The latest news and updates from FFAR.

See all News

FFAR & The Organic Center Invest $632,000 into the Future of Organic Farming

FFAR Grant Reduces Nitrogen Inputs, Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Grant Transforms Wastewater to Crop Fertilizer

GroundBreaker Prize to Fund Critical Water Research

FFAR Renews ESMC Partnership to Grow Ecosystem Services Market Program 

Mitigating Farm Risk Through Improved Soil Health

FFAR & OCP North America Announce Fertilizer Fellowship Awardees & 2023 Opportunities

FFAR and The Organic Center Announce $2.4 Million in Funding for Organic Outreach and Research

RIPE research proves potential for measuring root biomass throughout growing season

Producers and Researchers Agree, Scale Up of a Sustainable Biochar Industry is Critical to Meet Climate Targets, and Build Agricultural Resilience and Soil Health

FFAR and FoodShot Global Announce GroundBreaker Prize Winners

Advancing DEI in Sharing Carbon & Ecosystems Services Information

FFAR Announces $1 Million for Organic Research to Tuskegee University

FFAR & The Organic Center Advance Organic Agriculture

RIPE Researchers Report Faster Screening of Photoprotection in Crops

RIPE Researchers Prove Bioengineering Better Photosynthesis Increases Yields in Food Crops for the First Time

RIPE Shows Potential for Improved Water-Use Efficiency in Field-Grown Plants

UC Davis Receives FFAR Grant to Help Improve Vineyard Soil Health

FFAR and OFRF Announce Six Organic Farming Research Project Awardees

FFAR & OCP North America Open Applications for Fertilizer Efficiency Research Fellowship


Tools, technologies and strategies from the research we fund.

See all Breakthroughs

Building Collaborations for Technology-Driven Solutions in Agriculture

Breakthrough for Open Technology Ecosystem for Agricultural Management (OpenTEAM)

Documenting Adaptive Multi-Paddock Grazing’s Benefits

Breakthrough for Quantifying the Advantages of Multi-Paddock (AMP) Grazing Compared to Conventional Continuous Grazing in the U.S. Southeast & Northern Great Plains

RIPE Researchers Prove Bioengineering Better Photosynthesis Increases Yields in Food Crops for the First Time

Breakthrough for Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) Reinvestment

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