Category Archives: News

Save the Date: Ag Biotech Summit 2018

The 2018 Ag Biotech Summit will focus on the importance of soil health, highlighting challenges being faced and the responsibility needed to provide a sustainable future. This event will showcase today’s emerging trends and innovative technologies that are fostering and promoting soil health. Session topics will include soil health and its impacts on plant production, animal and human health, sustainability and land management as well as sustainable economic impacts from the intersection of physical and biological science. So mark it on your calendar to join us on February 20 and 21 to share innovations and help encourage new creations with the common goal of creating a sustainable soil future.

For More Information Click Here.

OFRF Now Accepting Applications for 2018 Grant Cycle


Press Release

Diana Jerkins, OFRF Research Director
(831) 426-6606

OFRF is pleased to release our Request for Proposals (RFP) for 2018 research grants. Applicants residing in Canada, Mexico, and the United States are eligible to apply. In particular, OFRF encourages farmers, ranchers, graduate students, early career researchers, veterans, and Extension personnel to consider applying for funding. The deadline for proposals is December 15, 2017. OFRF will notify applicants about funding decisions in spring 2018.

We selected our priority areas for the RFP based on direct feedback from farmers and ranchers across the U.S. These priorities reflect the top areas where investment in research will make a real difference in helping organic farmers and ranchers be successful.

Research priorities include are not limited to:

  1. Soil health. Topics of particular interest include nutrient balancing, crop rotations, and fertility management focused on reducing environmental impacts.
  2. Innovative weed control. Topics of particular interest include weed control related to climate change and changing weather patterns.
  3. Management of emerging insect and disease issues.
  4. Livestock health. Topics of particular interest include livestock and crop integration and best practices for grass based livestock production.

The RFP and guidelines can be viewed here. Please help us get the word out by sharing this information.

Please refer to the 2016 National Organic Research Agenda for more information on these topics.

Funding contributions are being accepted for OFRF’s 2018 research grant program. Your support will help bring more farmers and acreage into organic production. To learn more about how you can make a contribution to OFRF’s 2018 research grant program, please contact

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is a non-profit foundation that works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production.

The Language of Soil Health-Wayne Honeycutt

“Agricultural practices that enhance soil health are as good for the farmer as they are for the environment. Proven benefits of healthy soil include boosting crop yields, enhancing water quality, increasing drought resilience, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing carbon sequestration and building disease suppression.

“To continue growth and adoption of practices that benefit the health of our nation’s soils, the Soil Health Institute (SHI) has endorsed a list of 19 “Tier 1” soil health measurements. After three years of gathering input and feedback from scientists, farmers, field conservationists, soil test labs and more, these specific measurements, when regionally defined, help define management strategies to improve soil function – like nutrient and water availability.

“Farmers in each region of the United States face different struggles and challenges when it comes to maintaining and increasing soil health. With such a wide variation in soil type, moisture, precipitation and countless other factors, managing soil health consistently and creating standard measurements for soil testing across the industry are not easy tasks. To continue the growth and adoption of soil health practices, SHI is taking steps to streamline this process for better communication and a shared understanding of how the industry measures and improves soil health.

“These indicators are considered the best measures that are currently available for farmers to define soil health in regionally specific conditions.”

Read the Full Article here:

Literature and Information Review Grant Recipients

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) today announced five researchers will receive 2017 Soil Health Literature and Information Review Grants. According to Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Steven Shafer, 45 grant proposals were received. Each proposal was evaluated by two reviewers and recommended for final consideration based on the topic proposed and its value to advancing soil health.

Proposals funded under the Literature Review program are designed to collect current research literature, websites, databases, and other scientifically reliable information sources relevant to soil health; develop review articles and summaries on specific priorities supporting the SHI Action Plan; and deposit the reviews and bibliographic information within the Soil Health Research Landscape online database (freely accessible from SHI’s website). Each $8,000 grant may be used to support personnel and other legitimate expenses related to surveying, identifying, compiling, and summarizing the existing scientific literature, websites, and databases related to soil health, and preparing an overall review article about the findings.


Soil health management practices & biogeochemical cycling in intensive cropping systems
Dr. Kate A. Congreves, College of Agriculture and Bioresources, Dept. of Plant Sciences, University of Saskatchewan
This review will focus on the interactions of soil health management practices (e.g., crop rotations, cover crops and cover crop mixes, animal manures with different characteristics) and soil microbial processes affecting soil chemical composition, macro- and micronutrient availability, mineralization, and leaching; and the soil microbial species and communities that are involved.

Influence of soil organic matter and management on soil water dynamics and crop yield resilience
Mr. Daniel Kane, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University
This literature review will focus on the influence of soil organic matter and soil texture on soil water infiltration and soil water holding capacity. The review will also examine how those properties can be changed through management and whether there is evidence that they affect interannual yield variability (yield stability) and mitigate yield losses in adverse weather (yield resilience).

β-glucosidase – Phenol Oxidase Ratio: A Soil Health Index that Isolates Management Effect from Noise
Dr. Marshall Douglas McDaniel, Dept. of Agronomy, Iowa State University
This project will focus on collecting and synthesizing information from studies that measure two critical soil extracellular enzymes produced mostly by soil microorganisms, but also plants. β- glucosidase is an extracellular enzyme that cleaves glucose monomers from cellobiose, a critical step in the mineralization of organic matter in soils. Phenol oxidase is a lignin-oxidizing enzyme produced by plants and microorganisms that degrades lignin and humus, releasing carbon and nutrients. The ratio of these two extracellular enzymes has promise as a highly-sensitive soil health indicator.

Review Novel Soil Indicators and Environmental Impacts of Soil Health Promoting Management Practices
Ms. Yushu Xia, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois
The project will review the primary literature to evaluate the performance of active carbon and nitrogen measurements or their practicality, sensitivity and utility by evaluating responsiveness to soil health promoting practices and relationships to soil function (productivity, environmental function). A more in-depth exploration will then use references that report greenhouse gas emissions from field experiments that document management practice effects on soil health. Analyses will explore how covariates (management and edaphic factors) may help explain variable effects of soil health promoting practices on greenhouse gas emissions.

Grazingland Management Impacts on Water Infiltration, Nutrient Use Efficiency, and C Sequestration
Ms. Sutie Xu, Dept. of Animal Science, Michigan State University
Grazingland is one of the most important ecosystem types, as it occupies 30% of land area on the Earth and provides food and many ecosystem services. It is critical to understand the impacts of grazingland management on ecosystem processes such as water, nutrient, and carbon cycling to provide information and recommendations for policy makers and farm managers. This literature review encompasses soil water infiltration, nutrient use efficiency, and soil carbon sequestration because they are indicators of soil health that are closely related to soil functions regulating water and supporting nutrient and carbon dynamics, as well as mitigating the emissions of greenhouse gases.

“Each proposal is highly relevant to the overall goal for the Soil Health Institute’s research program, which is to address strategic, high priority needs of the scientific and stakeholder communities for advancing soil health,” -Dr. Shafer

The $40,000 in total grant funds were supplied by a generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous, according to Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, SHI President and CEO.

“These funds are designated to foster soil health promoting research, and we are grateful for the opportunity to provide grants to these very worthy recipients,” Dr. Honeycutt

Webinar: Soil Health

On August 23, 1p.m. ET, our Dr. Wayne Honeycutt will be a guest on Spudsmart’s Soil Health webinar. There, we will discuss practices to increase the soil’s capacity for potato production, including:

  • Why organic matter is important for soil structure.
  • How biodiversity in the soil can help suppress soil-borne disease and pest pathogens.
  • Using cover crops, minimizing tillage and going to longer rotations.
  • Integrating livestock into the system.

To learn more, register for free at

Tier 1 Indicators of Soil Health

The Soil Health Institute has announced the release of nationwide Tier 1 indicators of soil health.

During the last three years, scientists from public and private sectors, farmers, field conservationists, soil test laboratories and many others provided input to develop the Tier 1 list of recommended soil health measures, considered effective indicators of soil health. These specific measurements are regionally defined, have known thresholds, and help define management strategies to improve soil function.

For more information visit:

Long-Term Agricultural Experiments Directory Project

Please Help Us Catalog Experiment Sites

The Soil Health Institute requests your assistance in cataloging long-term (≥ 10 years) agricultural experiment sites in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Once compiled, this database will be made publicly accessible for building teams and planning agricultural research requiring inter-institutional collaboration on large scales, including soil health. Only a minimal amount of information is requested. Please submit your site’s information at the bottom of this page.

Thank you for helping advance the science of soil health!


C. Wayne Honeycutt, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Soil Health Institute





If you're having trouble submitting the form you can Download the Electronic Form
then email it as an attachment to

Agricultural Experiments Directory Project

National Soil Health Action Plan focuses on profitability, resilience


National Soil Health Action Plan focuses on profitability, resilience

Washington, D.C., May 22, 2017 – Agricultural and conservation leaders have committed to a national Soil Health Action Plan that will advance science-based research and drive productivity, profitability and resilience on U.S. farms and ranches, while benefiting the environment.

The plan “Enriching Soil, Enhancing Life: An Action Plan for Soil Health” ( follows four years of stakeholder input that began with the Soil Renaissance in 2013. Agricultural industry thought leaders, farmers, ranchers, scientists, government agency leaders, and non-governmental organizations provided input into the plan.

Unveiled Thursday at the National Press Club, the 48-page plan supports the Soil Health Institute’s mission to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement. It identifies critical goals, priorities, and gaps in knowledge and implementation; along with specific, actionable steps to address those gaps.

Wayne Honeycutt, President and CEO of the Soil Health Institute was joined by Bill Buckner, President and CEO of The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and Noble Research Institute; Keith Alverson, a 6th generation farmer on the Board of Directors for the National Corn Growers Association; Leonard Jordan, Acting Chief of USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service; Jerry Lynch, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at General Mills; and Michael Doane, Director of Working Lands at The Nature Conservancy. Bruce Knight, former NRCS Chief and Principal/Founder of Strategic Conservation Solutions, moderated the announcement and panel discussion.

The plan focuses on action-based priorities, including:


  • Increase soils’ available water holding capacity;
  • Increase water infiltration.


  • Decrease runoff;
  • Decrease nutrient loss.


  • Decrease greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Increase carbon sequestration;
  • Improve water quality in the nation’s watersheds.


  • Increase nutrient availability;
  • Suppress soil-borne diseases;
  • Respond to the increased demand for food as the population rises to a projected 9 billion persons, despite the projected decrease in farmland.


  • Standardize measurements and assessments of physical, chemical and biological properties of soil so researchers can document practices that make a difference and create models that producers and consultants can use to make management decisions;
  • Ground-truth research with producers so future recommendations are known to improve yield, protect the environment, and add economic resilience, creating a positive return on investment to land ownership and annual production profits;
  • Evaluate advanced technology to inform producers and promote soil health practices that reduce input costs and mitigate risk.


  • Continually assess public policy for its impact on soil health;
  • Provide evidence-based soil health information to policy makers, researchers, and others interested in food security, environmental protection, and agricultural programs;
  • Research the relationships between soil health and human health.

“Soil health represents one of those rare win-win situations where what is good for the farmer and rancher is also good for the environment,” said Honeycutt. Industry leaders say the plan also will enhance rural economies and provide greater food security.

“We see value in the entire action plan,” explained Lynch, while Jordan called the forward-thinking emphasis on soil health a “game changer for all of society.”

Leaders noted that while agricultural producers work daily to protect the environment and continue to make great strides in conservation and sustainability, further advances in soil health research and adoption will lead to greater benefits for farmers and the public.

Alverson said he has already seen the impact of modern soil management on his 2,600 acre corn and soybean operation. He said he’s excited to see a commitment to advance research that farmers can use to make field-by-field production improvements.

“A couple of years ago, we hired a firm to do some intensive testing from the 0- to 36-inch (depth) range and found that our organic matter levels have increased over the past 30-plus years of ridge-till … about 1 1/2 percent overall, which is really quite startling,” said Alverson, adding that a 1 percent increase in organic matter is the equivalent of adding 1.43 acre-inches of water holding capacity per season, and if a grower can improve corn yields by 10 bushels for every acre-inch of water applied, the yield increase will bring vital economic resources to growers and rural communities, as well as benefit wildlife and the environment.

The plan calls for a systems approach to soil health that integrates ideas from leaders in research, measurements and standards, economics, and public policy. Data will be used to establish a national soil health assessment, which will provide information on the functioning of essential biological, physical and chemical soil properties and processes. Future research will establish links among metagenomics data, pathogen suppression, plant growth and yield, as well as the economic and environmental impact.

The “living” plan also enables leaders to coordinate and consolidate future research, maximizing impact and speeding the process of getting comprehensive knowledge to the producer, policy makers and consumers.

“In the 13th century, Leonardo DaVinci said that ‘we know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot,’” said Buckner, SHI’s board chairman.

“With the rollout of today’s strategic action plan, created by concerned agriculturalists from across the country and the ag sector, and…….with the ongoing support of NRCS, NACD, Soil Science Society, our nation’s soil testing labs, our land grant institutions and financial support from private, public and corporate foundations, family offices, NGO’s, government entities and volunteers, and with new technologies developed by the new aggies from Silicon Valley, RTP, Boston and other tech centers and incubators around the world, we will finally start the process, in earnest….7 centuries later….of understanding more about the biological life underground than we do in the heavens above,” Buckner said. “The Soil Health Institute will be to soil what NASA is to space. With your ongoing support and encouragement, we will achieve this ambitious challenge.”

The plan comes at a critical time, according to Doane.

“The demand for food and water and energy will be greater over the next two generations than any other generations prior to us (as we increase population and endure decreases in arable farmland)…. In the next few generations, we will have to cope with these challenges but also with the tremendous headwind and the looming threat of climate change.…  It’s the right plan at the right time.”

Honeycutt says SHI is eager to add partners who are committed to soil health, and he looks forward to ongoing collaboration that’s focused on ambitious outcomes.

To subscribe to the Soil Health Institute’s newsletter and learn more about the plan, SHI’s annual meeting in July, funding opportunities or research grants, please visit


(L-R): Bruce Knight, Bill Buckner, Wayne Honeycutt, Keith Alverson, Leonard Jordan, Jerry Lynch, and Michael Doane introduce Enriching Soil, Enhancing Life: AN ACTION PLAN FOR SOIL HEALTH May 18, 2017. At the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


About the Soil Health Institute

The Soil Health Institute’s ( mission is to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement. An evolution of the Soil Renaissance, an initiative established in 2013 by the Noble Foundation and Farm Foundation to advance soil health and make it the cornerstone of land use management decisions, the Soil Health Institute serves as the primary resource for soil health information.