Healthy Soil 101: Why Soil Health Matters and How the Food Sector Can Help

Rallying research power behind soil health-

In 2013, the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and the Farm Foundation assembled a group of farmers, agricultural industry pros, government agencies, and NGOs to examine soil health and its role in a sustainable ecosystem. As the group detailed the varied issues affecting soil health, it became clear that more collaboration was needed in order to produce accurate, science-based information about what soils need to remain productive. In response, the foundations formed the Soil Health Institute (SHI)—an independent, nonprofit organization charged with supporting soil stewardship and advancing soil health.

To put it simply, the Institute looks to move scientific knowledge about soil health from the laboratory to the field by providing farmers with the tools they need to better manage their soils. “Farmers are the ones who will help us achieve these soil health benefits for the environment and for productivity,” Wayne Honeycutt, president and CEO of the Soil Health Institute, told TriplePundit. “In the area of the business case, we need more information and more research on the profitability of these soil health systems, because farmers and ranchers are businessmen and women.”

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Request for Applications

Qualified Laboratories are Invited to Submit a Proposal.

The Soil Health Institute is seeking laboratories to conduct soil analyses in support of its North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements. The goal of this project is to determine which measurements are the most effective indicators of soil health in varying climatic zones, soil types and production systems. Soil samples will come from up to 150 long-term agricultural field experiments in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Qualified laboratories are invited to submit a proposal following guidelines described in the Request for Applications.

3rd Annual Meeting Report

2018 Annual Meeting: Soil Health Leaders Advance Agenda-

Thank you to all who attended the Soil Health Institute’s 3rd Annual Meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The 3rd Annual Meeting Report features an executive summary of the meeting; video links and text descriptions for all plenary and keynote presentations; Action Team Breakout Reports; poster session abstracts and authors; and an attendee list. All videos are posted to SHI’s YouTube Channel.

A special thanks to our Action Team Volunteers and Co-Chairs, plenary speakers, and keynote speakers. Thank you to The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, General Mills, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and McKnight Foundation for your generous and continued support. Thank you to our partners at the Tri-Societies, Datu Research, Soil Health Partnership, University of Missouri-SARE, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Conservation Technology Information Center, Field to Market, National Association of Conservation Districts, Soil and Water Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, The Fertilizer Institute, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and FoodShot Global for your support in advancing soil health.

Next year’s Annual Meeting will be held on July 16-18, 2019 at the Hyatt-Regency in Sacramento, California!


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What Fire Does to Soil Microbes

Soil microorganisms are among the most successful creatures on the planet.

Steven Shafer
Steven Shafer, Ph.D.

By: Steven Shafer, Ph.D.

Fire affects many important ecosystem processes. Much of what we understand about the impact of fire on terrestrial ecosystems comes from many decades of research on the effects of forest and prairie fires on plant communities and succession, nutrient cycling, erosion, and soil properties.

Soil itself is a complex ecosystem that supports all living things above ground. Soils also host an incredible diversity of bacteria, fungi and other microbes that are affected by various factors such as soil nutrients, seasonal changes, drought, pH, chemical applications, plant species and farming practices. Although many microbes are adapted to high-temperature environments (we’re all fascinated by reports of weird microbes growing right at the edges of geysers and undersea vents), no physiologically active microorganism can survive fire.

However, we’ve learned that fire is a powerful regenerating force. This is why prescribed burns are useful management tools in forests and rangelands to clear out old growth, stimulate new growth and recycle nutrients.

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