North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements

North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements Principal Investigators and Project Scientists convened in Chicago, January 23-January 24, to finalize soil testing plans for 125 long-term agricultural research sites. The scientists will evaluate 31 indicators of soil health in order to give farmers, ranchers, and others science-based measurements they need for evaluating the health of their soils.

For farmers, scientists and policy makers, one question has yet to be completely unearthed: What are the most effective measurements of soil health? In 2018, the Soil Health Institute, in collaboration with the Soil Health Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, General Mills, and The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, undertook a project to evaluate soil health measurements at a continental scale. Scientists from 125 long-term agricultural research sites managed by universities, federal agencies, and private organizations are partnering across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The purpose of this project is to determine the most effective indicators of soil health in varying climatic zones, soils and production systems.

An important step was convening a blue ribbon panel of leading soil health experts to develop consensus on the most appropriate methods for evaluating 31 soil health indicators. The panel benefited from the input of numerous USDA-NRCS, USDA-ARS, university, and private scientists/ farmers convened by the “Soil Renaissance” from 2013-2016 to advise and debate the issues.

Led by Dr. Paul Tracy, SHI issued a request for applications and selected laboratories to conduct the analyses. Following an international search, SHI also selected seven Project Scientists to serve as liaisons to the partnering long-term sites and to lead soil sampling (2019) and data analysis (2020).