Request for Applications

Soil Health Institute (SHI) Requests Applications to Participate in a North American Soil Health Measurement Evaluation Project:

  1. Join the GIS-Referenced Database on Long-Term Agricultural Experiments
  2. Participate in the North American Soil Health Measurement Evaluation Project

Submission Deadline: June 29, 2018

Submit requests through the Institute website: https://soilhealthinstitute.org/long-term-agricultural-experiments-directory-project/

Send Questions to: Paul W. Tracy, Project Manager, ptracy@soilhealthinstitute.org or
Steven R. Shafer, Chief Scientific Officer, sshafer@soilhealthinstitute.org

Introduction:

The concept of soil health has captured wide ranging interest across public and private sector agricultural, environmental, and conservation organizations.  This high level of interest is well-placed because soil health represents one of those rare win-win situations where practices that are good for the farmer are also beneficial for the environment.

Research on the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil has enabled significant advances in managing agricultural soils and supporting increases in yield over the past 100 years.  Several soil health indicators and programs are now in use; however, despite its importance, a widely applicable and universally accepted approach for measuring soil health has not yet been established.  Numerous challenges exist, such as the adaptability of different methods and interpretations for different soils, agricultural production systems, and environments; unclear links among measurements, soil processes, and outcomes; ease and cost of measurement techniques; differences in measurement protocols among analytical laboratories; and others.

To address this need, the Soil Health Institute invites applications to participate in a coordinated, continental scale evaluation of soil health measurements and their relationships with yield, economics, and ecosystem services.  Applications are sought from individuals and organizations engaged in long-term (minimum 10-year) agricultural field experiments in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico.  Applications not selected for sampling in the North American Soil Health Measurement Evaluation project may still be included in a publicly-accessible, on-line GIS directory of long-term agricultural research experiments and sites being established to advance collaborations and opportunities for the agricultural community.

Review of applications will be a two-step process.  Reviewers will select sites for inclusion in the directory based on the adequacy of information provided to describe the site and experiments conducted there.  Sites selected for the directory will then be re-reviewed for possible inclusion in the North American Soil Health Measurement Evaluation Project.  Assessments will be based on strength and completeness of information provided, experimental designs and treatments implemented, data quality and continuity, geographic location relative to other available sites regionally and nationally, and overall potential contribution to evaluating soil health measurements, as detailed below.  All applicants will be notified of the results.

Eligibility and Evaluation Criteria:

To be eligible for the directory, a site must have a minimum of 10 continuous years of land use treatments implemented in a statistically valid experimental design.  Experimental treatments of interest include those that may alter soil properties, such as evaluations associated with tillage type, crop rotation, nutrient management, irrigation, grazing management, cover crops, organic amendments (e.g., manure), production systems (e.g., organic vs. conventional), and others.  All should be compared to one or more controls.

Individuals and organizations conducting such research on governmental, university, and private-sector sites are all encouraged to apply. Experiments selected for inclusion in the directory will then be considered for participation in a North American Soil Health Measurement Evaluation Project.  Experiments selected for the Soil Health Measurement Evaluation Project will be based on a peer review of the completeness and strength of documentation describing the experiment(s), as noted below.  Requested information includes:

The strongest candidate sites for evaluating soil health measurements and indicators will have well-defined treatment and experimental designs, extensive environmental data, and extensive data on production inputs and outputs, so that indicators can be evaluated in the context of management practices and their impacts in different production systems, environments and soils.

Note: Several sites have already been submitted to SHI for the directory of long-term agricultural experiments.  Because additional information is needed, those sites must respond to this RFA to be considered for the North American Soil Health Measurement Evaluation Project.

Selection and Partnering Information:

Those sites selected for inclusion in the directory of long-term agricultural research experiments will be considered for participation in a continental scale evaluation of soil health measurements and programs.  Soils in selected treatments, replications, etc., will be sampled and evaluated with multiple measurements/indicators of soil health that are at different stages of development.  One local representative at each location will be asked to provide the site-specific information necessary for the evaluation (e.g., management history, yield, weather) and help guide the on-site soil sampling process, which is estimated to require 1-2 days per site.  The Soil Health Institute (SHI) will provide soil sampling and handling assistance by assigning SHI Project Scientists to coordinate and participate in sample and data collection activities.  In return, site managers/scientists will have access to all soil analysis data from their site, may participate in the overall project to evaluate and standardize soil health measurements and their interpretations across North America, and will receive an honorarium of $2,500 (one per site, as determined by SHI), if allowed by their host institution.  In addition, each site in the Soil Health Measurement Evaluation Project will be offered funds to cover travel expenses for one site representative to attend a 2-3-day project workshop designed to share site information and facilitate collaborations with representatives from across multiple sites.  Scientific publications will be developed with authorship from sites contributing data and interpretation.

 

Important Note

Site information contained in the GIS-referenced database will be made publicly available through the Soil Health Institute website.  Data from analyses of soils collected at the sites selected for evaluation of soil health measurements will also be available on the SHI website.  Site managers will have access to all raw and interpreted data accumulated from their sites.  They will be encouraged to participate in database management and data interpretation and to work with the data from their sites or in combination with other sites to develop important soil health information for dissemination across the scientific, agricultural production and public policy communities.

Project Timeline:

Request for Applications (RFA) released April 20, 2018
Long-term site directory and evaluation applications due June 29, 2018
Develop site plans for data and metadata collection Aug. 31, 2018
Workshops for long-term site representatives Sept. to Nov. 2018
Sample collection Jan. to May 2019
Laboratory and data analyses Jan. to Oct.  2019
Interpretation and preparation of publications Oct. 2019 to Dec. 2020

How to Apply:

An application form is provided on the Soil Health Institute’s website at this link: https://soilhealthinstitute.org/long-term-agricultural-experiments-directory-project/.  Multiple experiments/sites submitted from the same site manager/team will require separate applications.  Applications are due by June 29, 2018.
Download Electronic Form