We need healthy soil. It’s a modern imperative for long-term agricultural production, which is growing as our global population continues to increase. In fact, global agricultural production must increase by 60 percent, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
A roadmap, prepared by an interdisciplinary team of Nature Conservancy scientists, environmental economists and agriculture experts, outlines how adopting soil health practices on all U.S. corn, soy and wheat croplands could deliver nearly $50 billion in social and environmental impacts annually.
Benefits from achieving widespread soil health adoption, as outlined in the Roadmap, include:
- Mitigating 25 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The equivalent to taking 5 million passenger cars off the road for one year.
- Reducing 344 million pounds of nutrient loss to the environment
- Eliminating 116 million metric tons of soil erosion
- Creating 3.6 million acre-feet of available water capacity in cropland soils
The Soil Health Roadmap is comprised of 10 recommendations spanning the Science, Economic and Policy sectors.
Science and Research
Overcome the science and research gap to support expansion of soil health management
1. Create cost-effective soil health measurement standards and tools
2. Develop operational management strategies for adaptively integrating soil health practices and systems
3. Advance the science of soil health benefits
Overcome economic obstacles by providing the market systems to secure soil health:
4. Align incentives between landowners and farmers
5. Leverage technological innovation to overcome operational hurdles
6. Provide broader access to products and services supporting soil health
7. Create market signals in sustainability programs for soil health
Improve the policy environment to advance soil health:
8. Reward farmers who optimize long-term soil health with lower crop insurance premiums
9. Support policies that which enable greater investment in soil health
10. Build a more diverse constituency for soil health policy
Dig deeper into the science of the Soil Health Roadmap. Download the full paper.
Note: To produce these estimates our interdisciplinary team had to make a number of assumptions and choose a single value for costs and benefits that in reality vary considerably across the United States. The team believes that this approach is reasonable for the purpose of coming up with rough estimates of potential impacts and benefits around soil health in the U.S. However, the estimates should not be used at a local or regional scale (e.g. to calculate the aggregate impacts of changes made at the farm scale, or for a farmer to determine what their specific experience will be.)
For those interested in more details on the calculations and coefficients used in the paper, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the full spreadsheet used for calculations in the paper.
A roadmap for collective action to secure the conservation and economic benefits of healthy soils. Download the Executive Summary
Working together, committed partners can help ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. View an infographic of the Soil Health Roadmap
The Nature Conservancy, with support from General Mills, launched a 10-Point roadmap to success. Read how the roadmap was developed
The reThink Soil report quantifies the value of soil health across the croplands of the United States as an indicator of economic and environmental success that can deliver billions of dollars of benefits. Read the blog by the Conservancy's Director of Global Lands