Maintaining and improving soil health is key to preventing soil depletion, ensuring long-term agricultural productivity, and protecting the environment in our region, as well as the ongoing health of the rural economy and regional food security. According to the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil health is defined as “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.” A host of indicators are currently available to assess soil health; however, our understanding of the relationship between these indicators and plant production and environmental outcomes is incomplete.
To address these knowledge gaps, better understand linkages, and provide better guidance to stakeholders, we are embarking on the Washington Soil Health Initiative (SHI). This initiative is an ambitious plan that funds research, extension, and demonstration of soil health best management practices through a network of long-term agroecological research and extension (LTARE) sites across Washington state’s diverse agricultural systems.
The Soil Health Initiative is administered through the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR) – see the program page here. The 2020 Request for Proposals is now open with proposals due October 10, 2019. The full RFP can be viewed here.