ENHANCED MIDWESTERN CROPPING SYSTEMS FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
Location: Agroecosystems Management Research Unit
Title: US Policy approaches for assessing soil health
Submitted to: World Congress of Soil Science
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: August 6, 2010
Publication Date: August 6, 2010
Citation: Andrews, S.S., Wander, M.M., Widman, N., Cambardella, C.A., Mitchell, J.P. 2010. US Policy approaches for assessing soil health. In: Gilkes, R.J. and Prakongkep, N., editors. Proceedings of the 19th World Congress of Soil Science, Aug. 6-10, 2010, Brisbane, Australia. DVD.
There is worldwide recognition for a more holistic vision of soil health and tools to guide soil conservation policy, management and restoration. To meet this need, U.S. conservation programs in the US Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (the farm bill), including the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), have recognized soil quality in their efforts to promote soil conservation. The first soil quality assessment in CSP was based on the Soil Conditioning Index (SCI), a simple linear model used to predict trends in levels of soil organic matter (SOM). Other efforts mandated by Congress include the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), which entails both watershed monitoring and process modeling efforts. While these intense efforts are resulting in environmental outcome estimates at large scales, for conservation on the ground, such intense efforts are not practical. Even the simple model, SCI has now been replaced by a practice-based tool in CSP. Initial validation efforts, comparing practice-based tools with measured soil data showed good representation of soil outcomes. Practice-based assessment tools, validated and calibrated using measured data, are practical, easy to use, well-accepted by producers, and representative of both conservation effort and outcome.