After three years of industry collaboration, the Soil Health Institute (SHI) has endorsed 19 national soil health measurements that will help answer the question “Just how healthy (or unhealthy) are the nation’s soils?”
“We can’t really know the answer to that question until we have a set of common soil health measurements that scientists and farmers can compare and track over time,” said Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, CEO of the Soil Health Institute. “But we believe our endorsement of 19 measures will help us seek and track that common ground – and ultimately answer that important question.”
Over the last three years, scientists from public and private sectors, farmers, field conservationists, soil test laboratories and many others provided input to develop a “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 – like providing nutrients and water.
“Many of these Tier 1 measures have proven effective to help producers achieve high yields for decades,” Honeycutt said. “Consequently, many of the soil test laboratories and field conservationists are already using these measurements. Currently, the Soil Health Institute is reaching out to those organizations to explore additional implementation opportunities.”
Work continues with the agricultural industry to add more measurements to the Tier 1 classification – currently being researched as Tier 2 and Tier 3 measurements. They require additional research to elevate them to Tier 1 usefulness. Such research may involve understanding regional differences in interpretation, establishing thresholds, and developing management recommendations to improve soil functioning.