Soil Health Institute Holds First Annual Meeting

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The Soil Health Institute (SHI), an organization consisting of a broad collaboration of agricultural leaders, held its first annual meeting July 27-29 in Louisville, Ky. OFRF’s Research Program Director, Diana Jerkins and OFRF Board member, Klaas Martens serve on the board of the Institute, which includes farmers, land grant university specialists, USDA scientists, conservation leaders, soil laboratory scientists and foundation/non-governmental organization leaders.

The goals of the Institute include conducting a national assessment of soil health and producing a digital decision support tool that enables growers to anticipate which soil amendments and crop rotations will have the greatest impact on a field’s annual return. The Institute will also curate soil health research reports and information.

Members addressed metadata collection, stratified sampling design, and an overall strategy to select locations for the initial U.S. soil health assessment. In future research, members agreed to:

• Prioritize economic return on investment for growers, focusing on single-year benefits when possible.

• Include growers in Institute committees, research planning and development.

• Build a planned network of experimental research that allows researchers in biology, physics, chemistry, economics, agronomy, and sociology to collaborate and integrate research, which will provide growers and policy makers with accurate information.

• Prioritize soil vitality, identifying the research gaps that will answer questions such as which crop rotations improve microbial soil function – improving drought resilience, increasing water infiltration rates and storage, decreasing run-off, and reducing soil-borne diseases, as well as improving yield and quality.

• Focus on cropland and grazing land first and forest land in the future.

For more information on SHI, please visit www.soilhealthinstitute.org.