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Farm Foundation, Noble Foundation Team Up for 'Soil Renaissance'

A new partnership is working to develop a protocol that
standardizes efforts to measure soil health and help farmers develop soil-nutrient tests that are based on soil-health testing, affordable,
easy-to-use, and based on science.

The Farm Foundation, a nonprofit agriculture-based
thinktank in Washington, D.C., announced this week its partnership with the
Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in creating "The Soil Renaissance."

The joint effort is designed to "bring people
together and discover tools and approaches to advance soil health in the U.S.,
North America, and ultimately, around the world," said Neil Conklin,
president of the Farm Foundation. The groups announced the launch of their
collaboration during a Farm Foundation Forum July 16 in Washington, D.C.

The groups are embarking upon an integrated,
science-based approach that will use partnerships with other organizations to
bring solutions to soil-health challenges. Across the agriculture industry and
in government agencies, numerous soil-health inititatives are already underway;
the Soil Renaissance is working to develop a framework for standardizing these

Bill Buckner, president and CEO of the Samuel Roberts
Noble Foundation, admits that developing an industry-wide consensus on soil-health standards is nearly impossible.

"In order to establish a benchmark, you need to have
a standard. We have a very engaged effort working with soil-health researchers
across the country to develop that standard," Buckner says. "If we
can find 50% agreement on what matters to everyone, knowing there are vast
differences in regions, climate, and environment, scientists can figure out the

The nonprofit Noble Foundation, based in Ardmore, Oklahoma,
has a long history in soil-health research. Established in 1945, it was founded
by oil baron Lloyd Noble as a way to help farmers conserve and improve the
soil. Its staff of more than 350 persons have produced several white papers focused
on the gaps in soil-health research; it has 40 projects on the docket in
collaboration with the NRCS and ARS to address these issues.

The Soil Renaissance will focus on four initiatives:

  • Measurement: To incorporate soil-health measures into standardized soil testing that is readily available, affordable, and commercial viable.
  • Economics: To quantify the effects of soil health on economic risks and returns.
  • Education: To reawaken the public to the importance of soil health.
  • Research: To convene the research community to advance soil health.

According to the Soil Renaissance website,
the first task of the Soil Renaissance team was to agree on a definition of
soil health. After lengthy discussion, the team adopted the definition used by
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation
Service (NRCS): The continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital
living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans

The group has consulted with more than two
dozen researchers, scientists, and producers to develop a Soil Renaissance
Strategic Plan, which can be read here:


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