For Immediate Release
Morrisville, North Carolina – July 12, 2022. The Soil Health Institute today announced five strategic goals it is pursuing to address climate change, regenerative agriculture, water resources, farmer empowerment, and consumer demand + policy.
By 2050, the world’s agricultural systems will need to support another 2 billion people. Yet, in the last century, soils have lost 40-60% of the basic building block that makes them productive (organic carbon). The societal and environmental costs of soil loss and degradation in the United States alone are estimated to be as high as $85 billion every year. Greenhouse gas emissions have reached the highest level ever recorded and are continuing to increase. Scientists predict drought to increase from impacting 1% of the world’s arable land to over 30% by the end of the century due to climate change. Approximately 80% of U.S. rivers and streams are in only fair to poor biological condition due to nutrient runoff and other contaminants.
“We are at a critical juncture in human history where we must address these challenges, and soil health is the framework to do just that,” said Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, President and CEO of the Soil Health Institute.
Research shows that improving soil health in agricultural systems increases carbon sequestration, reduces GHG emissions, increases drought resilience, enhances water quality, boosts crop yield, increases nutrient availability, and suppresses many plant diseases. Yet today, only 5% of cropland in the U.S. is managed using the basic soil health practice of cover cropping. Adoption is hindered by gaps in information on the economic benefits of soil health practices, lack of scientific knowledge on how healthy a given soil can become and what that means for land managers and the environment, and a scarcity of locally relevant resources and mentoring networks for farmers.
To address these issues, the Soil Health Institute is pursuing the following strategic goals:
Climate Change: Provide the soil science knowledge and tactics needed for agriculture to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Regenerative Agriculture: Provide the scientific leadership for understanding, managing, and measuring soil health systems contributing to regenerative land management in agriculture and other ecosystems.
Water Resources: Provide the soil science knowledge and tactics needed for improving water quality and quantity with soil health systems.
Farmer Empowerment: Provide farmers with the information they need when selecting and implementing soil health systems to be profitable, resilient, and environmentally sound.
Consumer Demand + Policy: Provide the science, metrics, information, and partnerships that will inform consumer demand and policies for food, fiber, feed, and fuel grown using soil health systems.
“Bold challenges require bold action,” said Dr. Honeycutt, “so we will use cross-cutting tactics that allow us to tackle several strategic goals simultaneously. For example, we believe land managers will be motivated to improve soil health once they learn how healthy their soils can become and what that means for increasing drought resilience, nutrient availability, and profitability.”
To address this gap, the Institute is establishing “Soil Health Targets” that will illustrate to farmers, ranchers, and their advisers how healthy their soils are and how healthy they can become. Because organic matter is an important soil health measurement, this will also provide farmers with an assessment of how much carbon their soils can store. Different soils have different capacities to store carbon.
“These science-based targets will empower farmers with the information they need when considering new management practices that will simultaneously reduce GHG emissions, build drought resilience, improve water quality, increase profitability, and meet the growing consumer demand for food and fiber grown using regenerative soil health systems,” said Dr. Honeycutt.
About the Soil Health Institute
The Soil Health Institute is a global non-profit with a mission of safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soils through scientific research and advancement. Our vision is a world where farmers and ranchers grow quality food, fiber, and fuel using soil health systems that sustain farms and rural communities, promote a stable climate and clean environment, and improve human health and well-being. Accordingly, the Institute brings together leaders in soil health science and the industry to conduct research and empower farmers and other landowners with the knowledge to successfully adopt regenerative soil health systems that contribute economic and environmental benefits to agriculture and society. The Institute’s scientific team holds doctorates in various soil science and related disciplines, with specialties in carbon cycling, nutrient cycling, water cycling, nutrient management, soil microbiome, farmer/adviser education, ecosystem services, soil-plant relationships, on-farm economics, and others. The team follows a comprehensive strategy for advancing adoption of regenerative soil health systems, as briefly described in this 5-minute video.
Healthy soils are the foundation for restoring our land. Together, we can create a secure future for all, mitigate the effects of climate change, and help farmers and organizations meet production and environmental goals at scale. Visit www.soilhealthinstitute.org to learn more, and follow us on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.