Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Challenge Area

The FFAR Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Challenge Area aims to increase soil health by building knowledge, fueling innovation, and enabling adoption of existing or new innovative practices that improve soil health.

Priority research areas in soil health include:

  • Soil health indicators
  • Data collection and management
  • Soil enhancing techniques
  • Ecosystem services
  • Assessment of the costs and benefits of soil health practice adoption
  • Training

Download the full Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Vision Statement to learn more about the strategic direction of this FFAR Challenge Area.

Open Funding Opportunities

There are no open funding opportunities for Health Soils, Thriving Farms at this time.

You may submit research to our general call for concepts or subscribe to our mailing list to be notified of our funding opportunities.

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There are no upcoming events for this Challenge Area. Check our events page for where you can find FFAR staff at upcoming events. 

Event Recap

Assessing and Managing Soil Health on Rangelands and Pasture Lands

Over November 6-8, 2017, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), in conjunction with the Noble Research Institute, the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association and the Soil Health Institute (SHI), sponsored a workshop centered around Assessing and Managing for Soil Health on Rangelands and Pasture Lands. The objective of this workshop was to identify research gaps in rangeland and pasture land soil health by applying tenets of “usable science,’ which involve the end user (farmers and ranchers) of the research in the process. Read the full event report of this event and provide feedback for consideration as we continue the conversation.

Grants Awarded

2017 Soil Health Initiative

FFAR awarded a $9.4 million grant to the Soil Health Institute, the Soil Health Partnership and The Nature Conservancy to improve soil health and, ultimately, support positive economic and environmental outcomes for American farmers. The grant will be matched by General Mills, the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, Monsanto, Nestlé Purina PetCare Company, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Walmart Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and individual donors for a total investment of nearly $20 million.

The goal of this project is to support collaborative research and education that accelerates adoption and benefits of soil health management systems nationally. Soil health is a critical component of a productive and sustainable agricultural system. Learn more...

National Cover Crop Initiative

Cover crops used in a fieldWe launched a collaborative, multi-partner research effort to improve soil health in the United States. The $6.6 million research initiative, made possible by a $2.2 million grant from FFAR, will promote soil health through the development and adoption of new cover crops across the United States. The initiative will bring together many collaborators, including representatives from the seed industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), three land grant universities, and an existing Legume Cover Crop Breeding Team, comprising another six land grant universities, ARS sites and a producer network. The focus of the initiative will be to identify cover crop species with the greatest potential to improve soil health and evaluate such species over a broad geography within three groups:  small grains (wheat, rye, oat and triticale), annual legumes (hairy vetch, winter peas and clovers), and brassicas (turnips, radishes, kale and mustards). Read the press release or visit the National Cover Crops Initiative webpage

2017 Seeding Solutions

FFAR awarded a $1 million dollar Seeding Solutions grant to the Foundation for Agronomic Research to quantify the impact of nutrient management practices on crop yield, soil health, nutrient use efficiencies, and nitrogen losses. The FFAR grant is being matched by the 4R Research Fund for a total $2 million investment in practical data for corn and soybean farmers, whose decisions about how much and when to apply fertilizer affect not only their own crop yields but also the long-term viability of their land and water quality in surrounding areas. 

Specifically, researchers will study 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices, a management approach that focuses on precision: using the right fertilizer source, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place. Although many producers and policymakers seek to reduce negative downstream impacts of agricultural production, there is a lack of data to support best practice recommendations. Research is needed to document the implications of certain nutrient management practices for managing water quality while also maintaining or growing crop yields, maintaining soil health, and profitability. Learn more...