Soil Health and Ecosystem Services

Both restoring and maintaining soil health are essential to making agriculture viable in the long-term. Soil health describes the dynamic properties of soil that can be changed by management, especially soil organic matter, soil biota, and chemical characteristics like pH. Thus soil health is distinct from intrinsic soil characteristics like texture, although these factors strongly influence soil health. The metaphor of “health” implies that soils can range from a “diseased” state to a “healthy” state, the latter marked by an active and diverse biological community and stable or increasing levels of soil organic matter that support key ecological functions like nutrient cycling and retention, water infiltration and storage, pest suppression, productivity with minimal nonrenewable inputs, and ultimately, resilience to stress. Yet intensively-managed agricultural systems mainly create sickly soils. Broadly, we are interested in how farmers’ innovations restore and maintain soil health and the ecological consequences of doing so. Through collaborations with social scientists and environmental policy experts, we are also interested in barriers, opportunities, and enabling conditions for adopting practices that support soil health.


Soil Health on Organic Farms in Yolo County

This projects aims to understand the connections between farmer mental models of perceived soil health and quantitative metrics for soil health. This project examines management practices across 13 organic farmers in Yolo County and includes both interview and field work.

Interested? Contact Ansel Olive Klein