Category Archives: News

A Handle on Soil Health

For decades, farmer decisions regarding soil health practices lacked adequate science-based validation. The Soil Health Institute seeks to end this disconnect by evaluating 31 soil health indicators that predict the sustainability and productivity of tested soils.

The Furrow provides an overview of SHI’s efforts to determine which of these indicators best reflect a soil’s health and productivity.

To read the full story click here.

“The concept of soil health is good not only for farmers and ranchers but also for the environment. But the lack of a widely-applicable method of assessing soil health is a significant barrier to further adoption,” -Wayne Honeycutt

5th Annual Meeting

Join Us for Soil Health: The Foundation for Regenerative Agriculture

REGISTRATION IS OPEN

Des Moines, Iowa USA

July 29 – 31, 2020

This year’s theme is Soil Health: The Foundation for Regenerative Agriculture, reflecting the opportunity we have to address climate change, water quality, food production, biodiversity, and many other pressing issues by improving soil health.

State Level Soil Health Policy Resources Released

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) today released an update to its state level Soil Health Policy Resources Catalog of legislative, agency, and academic policies and programs to advance soil health. The updated catalog, housed on the SHI website, also includes information on non-profit and for-profit entities.

SHI published the original catalog in July 2018 to help facilitate cross-pollination, learning and coordination across dispersed policies and programs. Since that time, the number of soil health programs and policies has significantly increased. For example, the number of legislative bills to advance soil health increased from 9 in 2018 to 53 by the end of 2019. The updated catalog now includes: 32 academic institutions, 85 state agencies, 53 state legislative bills, 87 non-profit entities, and 23 for-profit organizations.

“It is exciting to see such an increase in the number of initiatives to enhance the vitality and productivity of soils, particularly at the state level,” said Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, SHI President and CEO. “Soil health is the foundation for regenerative and sustainable agriculture, and such efforts at state and local levels help ensure local impact by considering locally relevant soils, climates, and production systems. Our goal in developing this catalog of policies and programs is to provide a resource where anyone wanting to learn what others have done can do so without having to reinvent the wheel for themselves.”

A case in point is the “Healthy Soils Task Force” established under Nebraska legislative bill 243. “As Chair of the Task Force, it is my job to help our members research and review effective soil health programs being done in other states and through other organizations so that we can build upon their success,” said Keith Berns, Chair of the Task Force. “This is a daunting task, but the Soil Health Institute’s catalog on soil health resources will be an invaluable tool in helping us reach our goals. It is a huge timesaver for the people on our Task Force.”

Recognizing that keeping such a catalog updated is a significant challenge, SHI invites additions that can be nominated on a form at the end of the catalog.

To view the catalog, visit https://soilhealthinstitute.org/resources/catalog/.

No-Till Cropping System Reaches Milestone in Wettest Year

“NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS), PIERRE, S.D., December 11, 2019 – In the wettest year on record for South Dakota, half the cropland in the state that was planted used a cropping system without tillage. That system, no-till farming, has been the predominant cropping system on South Dakota cropland in recent years, but this is the first year the practice was used to plant 50 percent of the state’s crops.

““It’s a milestone for farmers in this state. The incredibly wet weather we had the previous fall and in the spring of 2019 complicated planting for most farmers, and may have contributed to them meeting that milestone,” Jeff Zimprich, State Conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) told an audience at the Ag Horizons Conference in Pierre.

“The NRCS has tracked tillage systems and no-till for 37 years to help measure progress in the use of soil saving and soil building farming systems. “This highest ever percentage of no-till may be because one heavy rainfall after another during the spring planting season left only a very narrow window for planting, and the more stable soil structure that’s developed with no-till systems and cover crops allowed no-till producers to plant fields that were not overwhelmingly saturated during that narrow window,” Zimprich said. “Or it may be there’s more interest in no-till and healthy soils. In either case, more no-till systems and cover crops are a bonus to producers and all of us who live in South Dakota, because healthier soils and cleaner water are benefits we can all enjoy.””

Read the full story here: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/sd/newsroom/releases/?cid=nrcseprd1517222

Advancing Soil Health Through the Power of Partnerships

On this World Soil Day, the Soil Health Partnership (SHP), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the Soil Health Institute (SHI) are celebrating critical milestones in soil health research and education. During the past two years, SHI, SHP and TNC have developed a strong partnership, each bringing unique expertise to the table and leveraging one another’s strengths to promote positive change on U.S. farms.

Today, we review the progress we’ve made so far: https://www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-priorities/provide-food-and-water-sustainably/food-and-water-stories/advancing-soil-health-through-partnerships/

Soil is not only one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth, it also produces 95 percent of our food, filters our drinking water and reduces the impact of climate change through carbon storage. © David Ike

Cargill expands climate change commitments

“With a global footprint and presence in major food and ag supply chains around the globe, Cargill is committed to protecting the earth’s vital natural resources and reducing its environmental impact. In alignment with its climate commitment, Cargill has adopted a Scope 3 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its global supply chains by 30% per ton of product by 2030.”

This goal aligns with many of Cargill’s customers, who are driving toward similar climate goals. Cargill has also reinforced its intent to prioritize climate through three recent activities aligned with companies around the globe, including pledging to the CEO climate statement, signing on to the We Are Still In coalition to continue supporting the Paris Climate Accord and convening at this week’s UN Climate Change Conference COP 25 in Madrid.”

Read the full story here: https://www.cargill.com/2019/cargill-expands-climate-change-commitments

FFAR Awards $10.3 Million to Support Ecosystem Services Markets for Farmers and Ranchers

“In a lead up to the Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Indianapolis, the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) jointly announced on November 19 the award of $10.3 million from FFAR to establish the research component of ESMC that supports the development of a national environmental credit marketplace. ESMC and its members will match the grant over three years to fund research and development projects in this public-private partnership for a total investment of $20.6 million.

“FFAR-funded research will better quantify, monitor and verify the environmental impacts of agricultural producers’ conservation efforts to recognize and pay them through an ecosystem services marketplace. The Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC), the research arm of the ESMC, will develop tools and technologies to assure the validity of the credits cost-effectively, and at-scale.”

Read the full story here: https://ecosystemservicesmarket.org/2019/11/19/ffar-awards-10-3-million-to-support-ecosystem-services-markets-for-farmers-and-ranchers/

Fall Newsletter

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) has released its Fall Soil Health News, showcasing forward momentum on soil health measurements and education. The issue shares highlights from SHI’s 4th Annual Meeting, including an inaugural PED Talk by SHI scientist Dr. Shannon Cappellazzi. PED Talks are a new series of 10- to 15-minute science-centered soil health educational videos that are a collaborative effort of the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), Soil Health Partnership (SHP), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS), U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and SHI. Links to the conference report, conference videos and to Dr. Cappellazzi’s PED Talk are provided.

The newsletter’s articles include:

  • Why Measurement Matters: Investing in Soil Health and Regenerative Agriculture;
  • Genomics Study: 16S rRNA, ITS Amplicon Analyses Underway; Shotgun Metagenomics on Deck;
  • Field Days Kick Off Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Project;
  • Looking back on the most significant soil health grant in history: FFAR Shows Commitment to Soil Health.

SHI also announces three new associates.

Read the newsletter here.

ESMC Names Science Advisors, Adds Six New Members

The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) today announced selection of science advisors to provide scientific expertise to the four working groups within the Consortium’s research arm, known as the Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC). Working group co-leads were also named. The ESMRC working groups are focused on investments in research, development, demonstration and deployment to increase rigor and reduce costs for the fully functioning science-based, standards-based, and outcomes-based ESMC marketplace for agriculture.

The working groups’ efforts will continue to enhance the scientific underpinning for the voluntary ecosystems services market that ESMC will launch in 2022. The ESMC market is a voluntary, market-based approach to incentivize farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that provide quantified ecosystem benefits. ESMC is pilot testing its protocols on 50,000 acres of ranch land and farmland in the Southern Great Plains and is launching additional pilots in 2020. Read the full press release here.

Soil Health Institute Releases Annual Meeting Report, Video

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) today released its 4th Annual Meeting Report ”SOIL HEALTH: A Global Imperative.”

During the SHI Annual Meeting, which took place July 16-18, 2019, in Sacramento, California, soil health leaders discussed the roles farmers, ranchers and foresters play as key drivers of positive change through their investments in soils. In addition, participants discussed how stakeholders, including manufacturers, conservation-focused foundations and policy makers, can contribute to advancing soil health globally.

Currently, SHI is evaluating more than 30 different indicators of soil health in order to provide the agricultural industry with a short list of the most effective measurements farmers and ranchers can use to improve soil health. Moreover, Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, SHI President and CEO, described projects to evaluate the profitability of soil health systems on both farm and research settings; a new farmer-led soil health training program; and research on how soil health relates to water quality, carbon sequestration, and productivity.

During the meeting, soil health leaders discussed new provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill, which will impact the U.S. soil health movement. They also reviewed soil health practices that provide a demonstrated return on investment. Finally, participants looked towards the future, identifying benefits that may arise from better understanding the soil microbiome, soil health-human health relationships, and others.

The annual meeting report is available here.

Videos of annual meeting presentations are available here.