Earth Day 2018 Major Impacts

This Earth Day, We Celebrate Major Impacts Through Soil Health

By C. Wayne Honeycutt, Ph.D.

There are more microbes in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on earth, explains C. Wayne Honeycutt, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Soil Health Institute. Meanwhile, only about one percent of those microbes have been studied in depth. Imagine what Earth Day 2025 may celebrate as we continue to improve soil health and research its potential to enhance life.

U.S. farmers and ranchers are adopting soil health-promoting practices (e.g., no-till, cover crops, prescribed grazing) to increase soil organic matter (carbon), while also reducing soil and nutrient losses to our waterways and greenhouse gas emissions to our atmosphere.

It is clear that we simply cannot afford to be complacent, thinking that we have all the answers to soil health and environmental stewardship, because we do not. Doing so would ignore our responsibility to both current and future generations for providing plentiful and nutritious food, feed for livestock, fiber for clothing and other uses, as well as resources for fuels, while also delivering clean water and clean air.

So today, I challenge us to imagine a time when we fully understand the chemical signaling – that dialogue – between plants and soil microbes. Imagine understanding how to manage those communications to naturally suppress plant diseases and build drought resilience.

Imagine a time when our understanding of the interactions among plants, soil microorganisms, and their environment (i.e, the phytobiome) is married with our understanding of the microbiome in humans, so that through a fundamental knowledge of soil and plant processes, we deliver what humans need for optimal health and longevity.

Now imagine a time when all farmers and ranchers use soil health management systems that improve water quality, increase carbon sequestration, increase drought resilience, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide wildlife and pollinator habitat, too. Imagine what we can celebrate, in just a few short years, on Earth Day 2025.​

About the author: C. Wayne Honeycutt, Ph.D., is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Soil Health Institute.