Today marks the first release of regional-scale data from the Operational Tillage Information System (OpTIS), a new tool that has the potential to unlock conservation solutions for a variety of food and agricultural supply chain stakeholders. These data document the level of adoption of soil health practices for Illinois, Indiana and Iowa from 2005 to 2018. By the end of July, the same data will be available for the entire Corn Belt—an area extending from eastern Ohio to eastern Kansas and Nebraska, and from the Missouri Bootheel to the Red River Valley of North Dakota.
OpTIS, developed by Applied GeoSolutions (AGS), analyzes remotely sensed images of the landscape, automatically identifying and quantifying the proportion of cropland that is managed with various types of conservation tillage practices and winter cover crops each year. AGS, the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have spearheaded the development, testing and application of OpTIS.
“In the past, we have relied on data from cost share programs to measure conservation practice adoption, but we know most farmers implement conservation practices on their own,” said Ben Gleason, sustainable program manager, Iowa Corn Growers Association. “Utilizing remote sensing technology that is ground-truthed allows us to see the entire picture of conservation practice adoption, and the results show that we are making progress.”
Regenerative Design Group has been awarded a contract to lead a robust planning process for protecting and enhancing all soils across Massachusetts. The Project Team includes Linnean Solutions, a Cambridge, MA-based firm that helps communities and organizations reach sustainability and resilience goals; Eric Toensmeier, carbon farming expert and contributor to Project Drawdown; Caro Roszell, Soil Carbon Program Manager at NOFA/Mass; and Marty Dagoberto, Policy Director at NOFA/Mass, and contributor to the proposed MA Healthy Soils Program now being considered by the legislature.
Expanding Support for Healthy Soils
This project was initiated by The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) and the Commission for Conservation of Soil, Water, & Related Resources. Over the past decade, several states have taken on healthy soils initiatives, mostly focused on agricultural lands. This project will learn from those initiatives, and expand the scope to include all land uses in Massachusetts.
From the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research:
NEW YORK and WASHINGTON (June 6, 2019) – Soil health research is critical to preserving the environment and increasing farmer yields and profitability. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and FoodShot Global awarded GroundBreaker Prizes to three individuals conducting trailblazing research that improves soil health and enhances soil management practices. FFAR contributed $110,000, which was matched by partner organizations for a total prize award of $535,000.
This year’s inaugural Foodshot Global Challenge, Innovating Soil 3.0, recognizes rising scientific stars whose research supports a soil system capable of supporting ten billion people. Foodshot Global winners have identified technological and ecological tools that enable farmers to optimize yields and the long-term health of the land. Through this prize, all three recipients receive guidance, mentorship and resources to maximize the impact and scale of their research.
“Soil health is at the root of an agricultural system capable of supporting a growing global population,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR’s executive director. “This type of innovative research is needed to revolutionize global soil health. FFAR is proud to be part of this competition and to support this year’s winners.”
The GroundBreaker Prize was awarded to Dr. Keith Paustian, Dr. Gerlinde de Devn and Dr. Dorn Cox:
Dr. Paustian received a $250,000 GroundBreaker Prize to accelerate the global adaptation of his COMET-Farm tool systems. This specialized technology provides sustainability metrics that inform land management decisions and promote regenerative and conservation-based agricultural practices. These tools are increasingly used in the United States at the federal level to support conservation programs, at the state level to support soil health and carbon management policies, and by industry partners. Dr. Paustian aims to adapt the COMET systems to agricultural regions around the globe.
Dr. Gerlinde de Devn received a $250,000 GroundBreaker Prize to determine soil components that enhance plant productivity, allow for better absorption of nutrients, suppress disease and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Dr. de Devn’s research develops models that predict how plants engage with their environments, allowing researchers to efficiently produce nutritious food without stressing the environment.
Dr. Dorn Cox was also awarded a $35,000 GroundBreaker “Seed” Prize to support his ambitious vision of using Open TEAM to collect environmental data, providing access to comprehensive global agricultural knowledge to help growers make sustainable and profitable farm management decisions. Open TEAM, a technology ecosystem that leverages existing global open-source hardware and software, is in the development phase and aims to advance soil health through community learning and aggregating best agricultural practices. The GroundBreaker Prize will increase the capacity of Open TEAM by incorporating on-the-ground technology support and extending outreach to other open source communities around the world.
“I founded FoodShot Global envisioning a new way to harness the power of innovation, capital, and the collaborative spirit of the world’s leading stakeholders to effect change,” said Chairman and Founder of FoodShot Global Victor Friedberg. “We chose to start with soil because any future that imagines 10 billion people eating healthy and sustainably with equal access will require healthy soil. The three people we announced today are all groundbreakers whose inspired work lays the foundation for the next generation of solutions to the urgency we now face as a civilization. I couldn’t be more impressed and inspired by these inaugural FoodShot Global award winners and look forward to sharing what they’re doing with a larger audience.”
FoodShot Global received 176 GroundBreaker Prize nominations from six continents and over 40 countries. These winners were judged by investors based on core criteria including their alignment with FoodShot Global’s mission of creating a healthier, more sustainable, more equitable food system; their connection to the Innovating Soil 3.0 challenge, the global relevance of their work, their ability to realize growth and scale, and their likelihood of facilitating future innovation and systemic change.
“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.”
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.