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Partnering with the Soil Health Institute Benefits Agriculture and the Environment

Partnering with the Soil Health Institute

In the last 10 years, “soil health” has evolved from an obscure concept to a central tenet that is the foundation for regenerative and sustainable agriculture. The Soil Health Institute champions the agricultural practices and systems that will provide nutritious food for a growing population, arrest climate change, conserve and enhance natural resources, and support the individuals who will achieve these benefits for the rest of us – our world’s farmers.
As a leading voice in this evolution, the Soil Health Institute is fortunate to partner with hundreds of individuals and organizations to address key barriers to widescale adoption of soil health systems. The Institute’s recent and forthcoming advances include:

    • Providing a comprehensive strategy for advancing soil health
    • Performing economic assessments of soil health systems on 125 farms
    • Identifying the most effective soil health measurements for everyone to use across North America (and likely beyond)
    • Offering on-farm and classroom soil health training programs for farmers and their advisers
    • Creating new tools for building on-farm drought resilience
    • Establishing locally relevant soil health targets for benchmarking current status and measuring progress
    • Assessing the soil health impacts on greenhouse gas emissions at 90 sites in more than 30 states
    • Launching online databases with more than 13,000 soil health references, almost 300 state-level programs and policies, and over 40 resources for K-12 educational programs
    • Analyzing over 60 Farm Bill programs/provisions on soil health
    • Briefing Congress to promote well-informed policies
    • Conducting an assessment of soil health practice adoption across the U.S.
    • Producing the Living Soil documentary, available for free on YouTube, with accompanying lesson plans
    • Developing online resources for farmers and consumers on soil health practices, economics, ecosystem services, measurements, climate change, communications and others

Soil scientist

These programs and accomplishments have provided the Soil Health Institute with the knowledge, experience and capacity to offer a range of partnership opportunities for advancing the science and practicality of soil health, including:

  • Strategic planning and implementation on local to global scales
  • Soil health measurements to establish baselines and achievable soil health targets
  • Soil carbon measurement and interpretation that supports carbon markets
  • Soil health training for farmers, consultants, government and private field conservationists
  • On-farm economic assessments of locally relevant soil health systems
  • Environmental assessments of conservation practices ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to water quality
  • Providing evidence-based information for state and federal policies
  • Conducting basic to applied research and development, ranging from the soil microbiome to decision-support tools and apps for farmers
  • and many others


We invite agencies, businesses, farmers, and other interested parties to reach out today to explore how the Soil Health Institute can help integrate soil health into your agricultural and environmental goals.  Please contact us here

Cotton Farmer Showcase

Eight informative discussions with farmers & specialists

The Soil Health Institute (SHI), the non-profit charged with safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soils, invites you to join eight online discussions with U.S. cotton farmers and soil health experts who are improving soil health and evaluating its return on investment.

The Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Farmer Showcase events will be livestreamed beginning 2 p.m. (EST), Tuesday, February 2, 2021 and run every Tuesday through March.  Cotton producers, consultants and other interested parties may register one time to participate in each showcase and receive notifications for each event. Registration is free but required to participate.

Learn more and register here.

Illuminating Discussions with Cotton Growers and Leaders on Improving Soil Health in Eight States


Episode 1 Date Speakers
Soil Health Challenges in the Delta: What Works and What Doesn’t February 2, 2021 Mr. Sledge Taylor, Farmer, Como, MS
Mr. Parker Frew, Delta F.A.R.M.


The Delta, with its fine-grained, dark soils and sometimes significant pressures from tough weeds such as Palmer amaranth or extreme weather such as a slow-moving hurricane, demands special skills from its cotton growers.

  • Improving internal soil drainage
  • Capturing more rainfall in the soil profile
  • Increasing soil organic matter
Episode 2 Date Speakers
Soil Health in Texas: Lessons from Long-term Study Sites February 9, 2021 Dr. Paul DeLaune, Texas AgriLife Professor Environmental Soil Science

Dr. Jamie Foster, Texas AgriLife Professor Forages

Dr. Katie Lewis, Texas AgriLife Associate Professor Soil Fertility and Chemistry


Dr. Murilo Maeda, Texas AgriLife Assistant Professor and Cotton Specialist

Dr. Jourdan Bell, Texas AgriLife Associate Professor and Extension Specialist

Mr. Jeremy Brown, Farmer, Lubbock, TX

Mr. Barry Evans, Farmer, Lubbock, TX


Dr. Emi Kimura, Assistant Professor, Texas AgriLife Agronomist and Extension State Peanut Specialist


Dr. Josh McGinty, Texas AgriLife Associate Professor and Extension Specialist


Explore the local challenges and benefits of adopting practices to improve soil health across Texas. Farmers’ experiences are compared to lessons from Texas A&M long-term study sites.

  • Managing cover crops to minimize water use
  • Improving soil moisture levels
  • Increasing soil organic matter levels
Episode 3 Date Speakers
Soil Health in Arkansas: Is it Profitable? February 16, 2021 Dr. Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Cotton Agronomist

Mr. Matt Fryer, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Soil Instructor

Mr. Adam Chappell, Farmer, Cotton Plant, AR

Mr. Jess Flye, Farmer, Trumann, AR

Mr. Wes Kirkpatrick, Farmer, Dumas, AR


Three cotton producers with different levels of experience related to soil health practices and activities – as well as different views about tillage and cover crops – discuss growing cotton and farming for soil health in Arkansas. This webinar dives into economic data as well.

  • Addressing resistant Palmer pigweed pressures
  • Improving water infiltration
  • Reducing crusting
  • Reducing expenses for profitability
Episode 4 Date Speakers
Improving Soil Health in a Dry Climate February 23, 2021 Dr. Jeff Mitchell, University of California, Davis

Mr. John Teixeira, Farmer, Firebaugh, CA

Mr. Gary Martin, Farmer, Mendota, CA

Mr. Cary Crum, California Ag Solutions Crop Consultant, Madera, CA


Growers in a dry climate face specific cotton production challenges as they manage for moisture and overcome low organic matter, especially if they strive to build ecologically sensitive farming systems. California producers and soil health experts evaluate the best practices that hold promise in the state.

  • Managing cover crops in an organic system
  • Using soil amendments to improve soil (poultry and compost)
Episode 5 Date Speakers
Soil Health in a Cotton and Peanut Rotation March 2, 2021 Mr. Peyton Sapp, University of Georgia, Burke County Extension Coordinator

Mr. Burton Heatwole, Farmer, Millen, GA


When cotton growers rotate with peanuts, they obviously navigate a less-traveled journey toward improved soil health, focusing on strategic crop rotation, best timing of cover crops, and balanced nutrient uptake. In this episode of Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Farmer Showcase, Georgia growers discuss practices that work well in their efforts to enhance long-term sustainability.

  • Increasing soil organic matter
  • Assessing benefits of multi-species cover crops
  • Capturing more rainfall in the soil profile


Episode 6 Date Speakers
Soil Health: View from the Cotton Gin March 9, 2021 Mr. Robbie Waters, Edwards Cotton Company, Scotland Neck, NC

Mr. Zeb Winslow, Farmer, Scotland Neck, NC


When you’ve evaluated cotton bales for years and built relationships with area cotton producers, you’re bound to have insight into which production practices pay year-after-year. In this episode, we ask a local cotton ginner to share his perspective of soil health benefits for the area’s cotton producers. Then, we talk with a local producer about his experiences, especially focusing on cover crop seeding and termination.

  • Does improving soil health impact cotton quality?
  • Planting and terminating cover crops to reduce cost and maximize benefits
Episode 7 Date Speakers
Lessons from 8 Years of Regenerative Agriculture March 16, 2021 Dr. Buz Kloot, Research Associate Professor, University of South Carolina

Mr. Doug Newton, Farmer, Clio, SC

Mr. Jason Carter, Farmer, Eastover, SC


After multiple years of experimentation and learning from their cotton fields, these producers discuss how to maximize the impact of soil health promoting practices on their Coastal Plain soils.

  • Improving a degraded nutrient cycle
  • Increasing soil organic matter
  • Reducing resistant weed pressure
Episode 8 Date Speakers
Why Soil Health is Important to the Future of U.S. Cotton March 23, 2021 Regenerative Agriculture Leaders:

Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, Soil Health Institute

Mr. Greg Bohrer,

Dr. Jesse Daystar, Cotton Incorporated



This conversation asks important questions of key regenerative agriculture leaders:

  • Why are companies becoming so interested in soil health?
  • Do data support that consumers are demanding regenerative practices? Are they willing to pay more for them?
  • Will soil health and regenerative agriculture practices be mandatory in the future?
  • Will growers see any financial reimbursements or incentives?

The Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Farmer Showcase is part of the Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton project, which provides farmer-focused education and training events delivered by Soil Health Institute scientists, partnering with local soil health technical specialists and farmer mentors who have implemented successful soil health management systems. The project aims to increase the adoption of soil health management systems among cotton producers while documenting environmental and economic benefits.

Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton is supported through the generosity of the Wrangler® brand, the VF Corporation Foundation and the Walmart Foundation. For more information about the project, visit  To register and learn more about the virtual Farmer Showcase events, visit

See the news release.

Addressing change and challenge in manure applications

2020 certainly brought a lot of change and challenge for agriculture producers. While the pandemic forced Discovery Farms Programs in Wisconsin and Minnesota to cancel the annual conference, farmers, soil conservationists and crop consultants were still able to take advantage of educational opportunities online.

The theme for this year’s Discovery Farms’ weekly virtual conference series is “Keeping up with your conservation goals through change and challenge.”

A recent conference featured Dr. Christine Morgan of the Soil Health Institute in North Carolina who described soil health as the capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem sustaining plants and animals. She notes that there are very different soils in different parts of the country or even within a state. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t all be healthy and productive.

As part of her work at the institute, she and colleagues have examined 124 samples across the country demonstrating different soil and practices.

“To measure this we look at how each part of soil health was affected by various management systems: rotation diversity, crop count, organic amendments (manure), cover crops, decreased tillage; and residue retention,” she said.

Read the full story here:

Two Novel Measurements Detect Differences in Soil Health Management Systems

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) announces a recent publication authored by SHI’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Cristine Morgan, and Research Soil Scientist, Dr. Dianna Bagnall, is now available, open source, in Soil and Tillage Research.

The study, entitled “SLAKES and 3D Scans characterize management effects on soil structure in farm fields,” investigated the impact of no-till on soil structure and hydraulic function in the Lower and Middle Brazos River Watershed of Texas using measurements of saturated hydraulic conductivity, organic carbon, bulk density, slaking index of soil aggregates (inversely related to aggregate stability), and soil structure. The research was conducted in farm fields under three management systems: conventional tillage, no-till, and perennial grass. Soil structure was measured using multistripe laser triangulation, a novel method for 3D scanning of soil surface horizons. Slaking index was measured using a recently developed smartphone application called SLAKES.

No-till adoption shifted the soil health of row crop farm fields to be more like that of perennial grass fields. Organic carbon was significantly higher in no-till compared to conventionally tilled fields and hydraulic conductivity was 1.3 cm h-1 higher in no-till. As well, soil structure measured from 10 to 30 cm depth was significantly improved in no-till compared to conventional tillage. Improvements in organic carbon and soil hydraulic function are meaningful indicators of improved soil health and can also provide ecosystem services to off-site stakeholders. The two novel measurements (3D scanning of soil structure and slaking index from a smartphone application) were particularly able to detect differences between management systems.

Access the publication now through

Fall Newsletter 2020

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) has released its Fall Soil Health News, showcasing forward momentum on soil health adoption and research. The issue shares highlights from SHI’s 5th Annual Meeting with links to the conference sessions, conference report and video poster sessions.

The newsletter’s articles include:

  • How Soil Health Can Achieve Net Zero Carbon Emissions for U.S. Agriculture
  • “Assessing Soil Health” Webinar Series Delivers Information on Measuring and Assessing Soil Health
  • SHI Awarded $3.25 Million from ARPA-E to Develop Soil Carbon Measurement and Monitoring System
  • The Business Case for Adopting Soil Health Management Systems – A Project Update
  • NAPESHM UPDATE: Progress on Identifying Most Effective Measurements
  • Virtual Field Days Focus on Soil Health Promoting Practices in Cotton
  • Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Named Field to Market Spotlight Honoree
  • Cotton & Covers: Farmers Share Their Soil Health Journey
  • Cristine Morgan, SHI Chief Scientific Officer, Named Soil Science of America Fellow

SHI also announces its new Scientific Advisory Committee.

Read the newsletter here.

ESMC November Newsletter

Executive Director Update

The sheer volume of recent activity that impacts ESMC’s work and that of our members and stakeholders seems to increase every month. Political change aside (for the moment), we’ve seen more and more companies and sectors in and outside the food and beverage sector taking on new goals and commitments to become more sustainable, including pledges to be net zero emitters of carbon and GHG by certain dates. Goal setting and reporting commitments are fantastic to see; they signal that the private sector is continuing to step up to address not just climate change, but associated natural resource and ecological impacts, including water resource constraints, biodiversity impacts, and related concerns that are critical to human and planetary health and food security. Concerns that the global COVID pandemic might reduce commitments or reduce resolve are calmed by the doubling-down of corporate actors that are evident in headlines everywhere, every day.

Valid concerns that society and consumers need to have transparency and clarity into the true impacts of these commitments and endeavors are also increasing. ESMC’s industry-wide approach ensures that sustainability and climate change mitigation activities in the agricultural sector are appropriately and rigorously quantified, verified, and certified by independent authorities. ESMC’s mission of scaling beneficial impacts that benefit society is centered in a voluntary, private market that meets multiple demand-side and buyer needs, while paying the farmers and ranchers whose actions create the impacts. Our program ensures that corporate actors in the agricultural supply chain and value chain need not make these investments individually; and that farmers and ranchers have the necessary tools and opportunities to participate without unduly burdening them. To de-risk these markets, we are ensuring that all market actors have the necessary tools to participate and are testing the entire program with all of them.

ESMC’s programmatic investments in technologically advanced protocols, tools, technologies and a monitoring, reporting, and verification platform have and will continue to establish a credible, durable system that meets market standards, buyer and investor needs, and can track and reward the impacts appropriately. The importance of having a robust and national scale infrastructure that ensures transparent, rigorous outcomes-based, certified tracking of impacts from agriculture cannot be overstated. We need change now, but the changes and the tracking must be durable, and the system must adapt to changing science, technology, and market standards. That flexibility of design is an underpinning of our approach. Where we will be in 5 years is not where we are now.

Recent political changes promise to bring additional opportunities to this space, and ESMC looks forward to engaging as these changes are further discussed and shaped. Additional support to the significant investments the private sector has made in this space, as well as to the public and private investments that ESMC and our members have collectively made is always welcomed, particularly in a manner that does not undermine or erode private voluntary markets which have the potential to scale ecological outcomes alongside traditional conservation programs. Both are necessary, and both must continue to scale impact and outcomes with necessary speed.

Thanks again to our members, stakeholders, collaborators, funders, and supporters for all the work that you do. We are honored to work with you, alongside you, and for you in what continues to be an inspiring and rewarding journey.

Read the full release here:

Living Soil Surpasses 1 MILLION Views

Today, we celebrate the 2nd Anniversary of Living Soil, which has become the nation’s premier soil health documentary. Living Soil has now passed 1 MILLION views!

Living Soil in the Classroom

We invite you to share Living Soil with your local schools. The primary learning goal is to help students develop an understanding of why soil health is important and identify ways that professionals in production agriculture work to improve the health of our nation’s soils, ultimately benefiting all members of society.

Free lesson plans are included for high school and college faculty use. These lesson plans are designed to accompany the Living Soil film and are appropriate to classes in agriculture, natural resources, environment, ecology, biology or human nutrition and food systems.

Lesson Plans

“Educating consumers about the on-farm and environmental benefits of healthy soils can help create more demand for food, fiber, and fuel grown using soil health systems. The Living Soil documentary was created and produced with that goal in mind, so we can achieve the many environmental benefits of healthy soils at a much grander scale,” said Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, President and CEO of the Soil Health Institute. “We thank everyone who has viewed and especially shared the documentary. My only ask is this: Please keep it up!”

The 60-minute film captures the history – and significance – of the soil health movement, beginning with painful images of the Dust Bowl, and then transitioning to personal experiences of innovative women and men who are managing their land to enhance soil health. Living Soil features rural and urban farmers from Maryland to California, producing everything from corn to floral bouquets, united by their care for the soil.

The documentary was directed by Ms. Chelsea Myers of Tiny Attic Productions and produced by the Soil Health Institute through the generous support of The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation. It is available free of charge and is currently being translated into multiple languages.
Watch the film here:

Dr. Cristine Morgan Named SSSA Fellow

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) today announced that the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) will recognize Dr. Cristine Morgan, Chief Scientific Officer of the Soil Health Institute, as a 2020 SSSA Fellow. The annual award is presented for outstanding contributions to soil science through education, national and international service, and research.

Dr. Morgan develops scientific strategy and implementation for SHI’s research. She holds a B.S. from Texas A&M University in Environmental Soil and Plant Sciences and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Soil Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Read the full story here:

SHI Scientists Present at ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting

SHI scientists will present at the 2020 ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Annual Meeting “Translating Visionary Science to Practice” on November 9-13, 2020. The event is virtual, and presentations are available for on-demand viewing throughout the meeting beginning at 9:00am Central on November 9. On-demand presentations will continue to be accessible via the meeting platform for three months.

To register for the event and access SHI talks, visit

We encourage ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Annual Meeting attendees to view these presentations, as well as those in the Measuring and Assessing Soil Health oral session, by searching the title or presenter name in the meeting platform starting on November 9th.

Presentations by SHI Scientists

A Comprehensive Strategy to Advance Adoption of Soil Health Systems
Presented by C. Wayne Honeycutt, Ph.D., President and CEO

The North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements: Overview and Direction
Presented by Cristine Morgan, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer

A Comprehensive Approach to Securing Soil, Agriculture, and the Environment
Presented by Cristine Morgan, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer

Measuring and Assessing Soil Health
Presented by Cristine Morgan, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer

Economic Assessment of Adoption of Soil Health Management Systems
Presented by John Shanahan, Ph.D., Project Manager – Agronomy

Management-Sensitive Pedotransfer Functions for Plant-Available Water Holding Capacity
Presented by Dianna Bagnall, Ph.D., Research Soil Scientist

Comparing the usefulness of nitrogen measurements used in soil health assessments
Presented by Shannon Cappellazzi, Ph.D., Lead Project Scientist

Towards Quantitative Ratings That Reflect Soil Health Principles: Soil Tillage Intensity
Presented by Michael Cope, Ph.D., Statistician and Database Manager

Soil Hydraulic Properties: Measurement Response to Soil Health Management
Presented by G. Mac Bean, Ph.D., Project Scientist

Assessing the sensitivity and utility of aggregate stability methods for soil health evaluation
Presented by Kelsey L.H. Greub, Ph.D., Project Scientist

Carbon Indicators of Soil Health: Relationships Among Indicators and the Role of Management and Intrinsic Factors
Presented by Daniel Liptzin, Ph.D., Project Scientist

Assessment of targeted amplicon sequencing as an indicator of soil health
Presented by Elizabeth Rieke, Ph.D., Project Scientist

Comparing Soil Carbon Measurements from Long-Term Agricultural Experiments across the United States with Comet-Farm Estimations
Presented by Paul Tracy, Ph.D, Project Agronomist

Soil Health and Its Relationship to the 4R’s of Nutrient Management
Presented by Paul Tracy, Ph.D, Project Agronomist

Farmers first is the key to regenerative agriculture

It’s not every day you hear eight Ph.D.s, entrepreneurs or bigwigs at billion-dollar international companies talking intensely about farmers. But during two regenerative agriculture breakout sessions at VERGE 2020 this week, that’s what happened.

“For us, it was critical to actually put the farmer at the center of this conversation,” said Robyn O’Brien, co-founder of rePlant Capital, during one conversation.

These experts knew that to make real change in the agriculture system that would help draw down carbon and make farming more sustainable, the industry must get the farmers on board. According to Jay Watson, sourcing, sustainability and engagement manager at General Mills, you can have the resources, the buy-in from local governments and the cultural support but to unlock a new way of producing, it needs to be a farmer-led movement.