Major Factors Impacting Challenge Area
Historically, the terms “soil health” and “soil quality” have identified physical, chemical and biological properties and processes that contribute to soil function. Soil health is the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans. Soil quality is defined as the characteristics of soil properties including both dynamic and inherent.
While each of those components has a long history of research, the science of soil health requires combining these components to more efficiently increase productivity.
Stakeholders from academia and industry, as well as local, state and federal government personnel, land managers and farmers want more accurate, standardized and cost-effective in-field soil health measurements and improved methods for interpretation. Field-ready soil health assessment strategies remain in their infancy, with many needing further development and very few having been implemented. This limits the ability of agricultural decision-makers to formulate timely responses supporting healthy soil management practices. There is a strong need for assessment tools that support sustainable land management practices, as well as a need for more applied research, data acquisition, storage and interpretation. Additionally, soil health can be improved by better-defined management strategies that foster collaboration among stakeholders and garner broader support for sustainable land management practices.
To facilitate adoption of more responsive soil health practices, we continue to support bold regional and national efforts to quantify soil health metrics utilizing biological, physical, chemical and computation sciences. New and innovative simulation modeling, remote sensing and soil health monitoring techniques are also needed to improve our predictive understanding of concepts that enable us to become better stewards of our living, dynamic and fragile soils.