I am a Soil Biogeochemist digging into the long-term impacts of soil health management on productivity, profitability, and the provision of ecosystem services; across the diversity of California soils, climates, and cropping systems. Through participatory research and multi-stakeholder engagement, I seek to drive discovery around the context-specific implementation of climate-, water-, and nutrient-smart management systems.
Soil health is the capacity of soil to function as a vital, living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. While many soil properties are inherent and can’t change on a human time scale (i.e. texture), others are dynamic and are directly influenced by management (i.e structure, organic matter).
There are a variety of lab-based and in-field tests that land managers can use to evaluate the health of their soil (common indicators below). A combination of physical, chemical, and biological indicators should be used, but ultimately, the ideal suite depends on the context — region, climate, soil type — and the outcomes or goals one hopes to achieve.
Just like you and I, soils are made from a diversity of different parent materials (i.e. residual bedrock, transported sediment). Over time, the physical environment (i.e. climate), the biological community — and in recent history, the way they are managed — informs their development, leading to a diversity of soils across the landscape. As a result, the best suite of practices and the ecological outcomes vary from soil to soil — even within a single field!