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FFAR Awards Grant to Enhance Soil Practices in Almond Orchards

“More than 80 percent of the world’s almonds are produced in California, and this industry contributes $21 billion to the state’s economy. In recognition of the need to develop more resilient almond orchards, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $225,000 Seeding Solutions Grant to the University of California, Davis, to improve soil health in almond orchards. The FFAR grant has been matched with funding from the Almond Board of California and almond growers for a total $450,000 investment.

“Currently, almond growers clean the orchard floor so that no weeds, manures or organic matter are left before harvest begins. Almond harvesters then shake the trees to encourage the almond fruit to fall to the ground, where it dries out before growers transfer the fruit in its hull and shell to processing facilities. Since the almonds touch the ground during harvest, growers are not able to use manures, composts or other materials added to the soil that would contaminate the nuts.”

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New Report Identifies how to Supercharge Ag Science in the US

20 Universities Demonstrate Success as Coalition Presses for More Federal Investment in Agricultural Research-

“WASHINGTON, DC (March 27, 2019)—A new report issued today showed how U.S. farmers—facing a surge of weather events and disease outbreaks—can increase production and revenues with innovations produced by federally funded agricultural research.

“The U.S. needs to increase its investment in agricultural research or it risks falling further behind China, according to a new report issued by the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation and 20 FedByScience research institutions.

“The new report, Retaking the Field: Science Breakthroughs for Thriving Farms and a Healthier Nation, highlights research projects in the five Science Breakthroughs areas identified as the most important fields to advance in agriculture by the year 2030: genomics, microbiomes, sensors, data and informatics, and transdisciplinary research. These areas were determined by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) as part of a widespread scientific effort to prioritize agricultural research endeavors.”

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Soil Health Training to Supply Growing Demand for Sustainable Cotton

“The Soil Health Institute (SHI), the nonprofit organization charged with safeguarding and enhancing soil health, has announced it will launch “Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton,” a continuous engagement project to help U.S. cotton farmers increase soil health on their farms. In addition, the project will seek to quantify and expand the productivity, economic, and environmental benefits of soil health systems for those farmers. The initial pilot program, which will be conducted during 2019, will include cotton producers in Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina, according to Cristine Morgan, Ph.D., SHI Chief Scientific Officer.

“This farmer-focused education and training program will be developed and delivered by a qualified team comprised of technical specialists and successful cotton farmers,” Morgan said. “In 2020, the program will expand to Mississippi, Texas, and California.””

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UC ANR CASI hosts Dr. Shannon Cappellazzi

CASI hosts Dr. Shannon Cappellazzi of the Soil Health Institute for two days of sampling at the NRI Project field in Five Points, CA!

Author: Jeffrey P Mitchell

“The UC ANR CASI (Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation) Center hosted Dr. Shannon Cappellazzi, lead scientist for the Western US for two days of soil sampling at the long-term NRI Project in Five Points, CA March 18th and 19th. This well-known ANR study was started in 1999 and has been a unique research resource in the State because of its dedication to investigating reduced disturbance and biodiversity in food production systems. Since being established, it has maintained four experimental systems – standard tillage without a cover crop, standard tillage with a cover crop, no-tillage without a cover crop, and no-tillage with cover crop – and it has afforded comparisons of a long list of soil, crop, environmental, and economic outcomes that have resulted from each of these systems being implemented over such a long time frame. Earlier this year, the site was selected as one of the roughly 125 similar long-term studies in North America that the Soil Health Institute of Morrisville, NC is conducting in 2019. The goals of the monitoring program that is being done at each of these sites is to characterize and better understand how consistent, long-term management impacts a range of soil properties and functions and to also gain better understanding of which indicators of soil health might be best able to detect changes in performance and function across this broad array of environments.”

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Soil Health, Human Health Research Priorities Identified

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) today released the Conference on Connections Between Soil Health and Human Health report, which includes recommendations for better understanding soil health – human health relationships. The conference was designed to bring the soil health and human health communities together, establish the current state of collective knowledge, identify gaps and associated priorities, and scope a collaborative path forward. Held October 16 – 17, 2018, in Silver Spring, MD, the conference included more than 180 attendees from more than 120 organizations.

“We often consider how soil health supports human health in the context of feeding a growing world population. This is certainly a very noble goal by itself, but the potential does not end there,” said Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, President and CEO of SHI. “Healthy soils filter and break down contaminants, reduce nutrient losses to our waterways, and help us both mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. Interestingly, however, we learned that the medical community largely thinks of soil decontamination rather than soil as a source of nutrients. We learned that the medical profession is so concerned about climate change that medical societies representing over half of the doctors in the U.S. have created a consortium to inform the public and policymakers about the harmful health effects of climate change. These are issues we can address by improving soil health!

Read the Full Press Release Here:

Join Us For Our 4th Annual Meeting

Join Us for SHI's Information-Packed 2019 Annual Meeting-


This year’s theme is Soil Health – A Global Imperative, reflecting just how critically imminent it is that we safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soils to address food, water, climate, wildlife, fiber, fuel, and other global issues.

Registration is $300 with a special price of $100 for Farmers and Students.

Learn more here.

North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements

North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements Principal Investigators and Project Scientists convened in Chicago, January 23-January 24, to finalize soil testing plans for 125 long-term agricultural research sites. The scientists will evaluate 31 indicators of soil health in order to give farmers, ranchers, and others science-based measurements they need for evaluating the health of their soils.

For farmers, scientists and policy makers, one question has yet to be completely unearthed: What are the most effective measurements of soil health? In 2018, the Soil Health Institute, in collaboration with the Soil Health Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, General Mills, and The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, undertook a project to evaluate soil health measurements at a continental scale. Scientists from 125 long-term agricultural research sites managed by universities, federal agencies, and private organizations are partnering across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The purpose of this project is to determine the most effective indicators of soil health in varying climatic zones, soils and production systems.

An important step was convening a blue ribbon panel of leading soil health experts to develop consensus on the most appropriate methods for evaluating 31 soil health indicators. The panel benefited from the input of numerous USDA-NRCS, USDA-ARS, university, and private scientists/ farmers convened by the “Soil Renaissance” from 2013-2016 to advise and debate the issues.

Led by Dr. Paul Tracy, SHI issued a request for applications and selected laboratories to conduct the analyses. Following an international search, SHI also selected seven Project Scientists to serve as liaisons to the partnering long-term sites and to lead soil sampling (2019) and data analysis (2020).

Noble Research Institute Appoints Rhines as President and Chief Executive Officer

Steven Rhines, President & CEO

ARDMORE, Okla. — Noble Research Institute’s governing body announced today the selection of Steven Rhines as the organization’s new president and chief executive officer. The governing body voted unanimously to select Rhines at last week’s regular January meeting.

Rhines has been with Noble for almost two decades, most recently serving as its vice president, general counsel and director of public affairs.

“We conducted a nationwide search for a proven leader who possessed a significant understanding of agricultural research, the vision to advance the Noble Research Institute into the next generation, and high personal integrity,” said Rusty Noble, chairman of The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation Board of Directors and grandson of the organization’s founder, Lloyd Noble. “We found all of those qualities in Steve. He has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to successfully lead critical initiatives, and he has a great passion for agriculture and Oklahoma. We look forward to him leading Noble for many years to come.”

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation is the sole member/manager of Noble Research Institute, a nonprofit single-member limited liability company. The Foundation acts through its board of directors to provide leadership for the Institute to carry out its charitable purposes, act as a good steward of its resources, and conduct and support its activities in accordance with the vision of founder Lloyd Noble.

Rhines becomes the ninth president in Noble’s 74-year history. He replaces Bill Buckner, who retired after seven years at the end of 2018. “I’m humbled and honored to be chosen to steward the Noble legacy,” Rhines said. “I am thankful for this opportunity, and I am excited to work alongside a talented and dedicated group of researchers, educators, consultants and staff.”

Rhines, a native of Antlers, Oklahoma, earned a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Oklahoma in 1990 and a Juris Doctor from Southern Methodist University in 1994. Rhines joined Noble from the international law firm of Sidley Austin in 2001.

Rhines has led the legal function of the nonprofit since 2001. Additionally, he has been responsible for overseeing numerous operational activities during his tenure, including extramural funding, communications, government and public affairs, and most recently, youth and adult education.

In 2008, Rhines headed the organization’s effort to modify the U.S. Tax Code to create a new type of 501(c)(3) public charity called agricultural research organizations (AROs). The proposed modification would increase agricultural research capacity in the United States and provide philanthropists another option to invest in public agricultural research. The legislative measure became law in December 2015.

The Noble Research Institute is in the process of converting from a private foundation to an ARO. “The development of AROs was almost a seven-year journey, and Steve led the entire effort,” Noble said. “The project is but one example of his demonstrated vision, critical thinking and tenacity. He cares about Noble and its mission, and he cares for the development of the people he works with and leads. These qualities made him the clear choice for the Institute’s future.”

Rhines begins his tenure as the Institute’s president today. Rusty Noble, on behalf of the governing body, made the announcement to employees during a special gathering on the Institute campus.

“I fell in love with the organization the first day I walked onto this campus and heard the story of Lloyd Noble,” Rhines said. “Our focus is land stewardship in livestock production for producer profitability. We deliver guidance, education, solutions, and innovations to farmers and ranchers — regionally and nationally. Being a part of an organization with a committed governing body, leadership team and employees is a foundation for success. It is the greatest job anyone could have.”

In addition to other community activities and service, Rhines serves as a governor-appointed member of both the Oklahoma School for Science and Mathematics Board of Trustees and the Oklahoma Science and Technology Research and Development Board.

Rhines and his wife, Debbie, live in Ardmore. They have three sons currently attending college: Andrew, Thomas and Grant.