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

Managing Soil Health in Potatoes-Spudsmart

Soil health can be seen as the continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital, living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans. This definition from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) speaks to the importance of managing the soil so it can continue to sustain life for future generations.

According to the USDA-NRCS, there are a number of agronomic measures farmers can follow to bolster soil health. They include:

  • Minimize soil disturbance
  • Keep soil covered
  • Maximize the duration of living roots
  • Maximize diversity of crops
  • Integrate livestock into the system

Read the Full Article 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:

Highlights from Soil Health Institute’s Annual Meeting, A Farmer’s Perspective

After a day of talk about soil health — the science, metrics, economics, policy and possible markets — an Alabama commodity farmer got to share some thoughts that reflect the business challenge for the average grain, oilseed or fiber producer.

V. Larkin Martin has served on boards of multiple farm and business organizations — including the Soil Health Institute, Farm Foundation and the Cotton Board and is a former chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. She manages her family’s seventh-generation, 7,000-acre farm of both owned and rented land in Alabama.

Martin explained that soil health was vital to her farm because of the dry conditions in the South, as well as farming on a high percentage of highly erodible land. Soil health is an imperative, yet most of her landlords might be just mildly interested in the topic. The buyers of the corn, soybeans, wheat, peanuts and cotton raised on the farm, not so much, she said.

To read the full article 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

California, Maryland Conservation Policy Innovators to Speak During Soil Health Institute Conference

“RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C, Jun. 15 /CSRwire/ – California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross will update the nation’s soil health leaders on the California Healthy Soils Initiative during the Soil Health Institute’s (SHI) annual meeting, July 12-14, in St. Louis, Mo.  Dana Stein, Maryland House of Delegates, will brief leaders on his state’s Healthy Soils Program, which was approved by Governor Larry Hogan May 4.

“The two officials join 11 other innovators who will address critical soil health solutions during the conference, PoweringUP Our Soils.  Speakers will provide information on the Action Plan For Soil Health, which outlines collaboratively developed, actionable steps to analyze and improve the health of the nation’s soils and ecosystems, carbon sequestration, enhancing soil to suppress soil-borne diseases, and emerging sustainability requirements.”

Read the full article here:

Agwired “General Mills Backing Soil Health Program”

“Several organizations have come together on a program to enhance farm sustainability through soil health. And they are very happy to announce additional backing from a major food manufacturer – General Mills. These organizations are working to advance soil health on America’s farms and ranches, paving the way for measurable economic and environmental gains for farmers, businesses and communities for generations to come.

To help ensure soil health, General Mills has made a three-year, $2 million commitment to The Nature Conservancy, Soil Health Institute and Soil Health Partnership to support the development of tools and resources for farmers, landowners, and supply chain leaders to achieve widespread adoption of soil health practices.”

Read the Full Article here:

Agwired “Soil Health Institute Announces Action Plan”

“The Soil Health Institute (SHI) today unveiled the “Enriching Soil, Enhancing Life” Soil Health Action Plan during a National Press Club event.

“This is an exciting time to be working in soil health,” said SHI president and CEO Wayne Honeycutt. “The action plan identifies critical goals and priorities. It helps identify key gaps in our knowledge and implementation…and we’ve identified specific actionable steps to achieve these things.”

Former USDA-NRCS chief Bruce Knight moderated the unveiling of the plan which was developed from four years of stakeholder input, beginning 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, which will be used to drive advancements in soil health.”


Read the Full Article here:

Changing the Landscape of Soil Health