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Food and Conservation Groups Invest in Soil to Sustain Food Production
USAgNet - 04/21/2017

A national effort to enhance farm sustainability through soil health has additional backing from a major consumer foods manufacturer. Leaders from General Mills, The Nature Conservancy, the Soil Health Institute and the Soil Health Partnership announce a collaborative effort to advance soil health on America's farms and ranches, paving the way for measurable economic and environmental gains for farmers, businesses and communities for generations to come.

Global populations are expected to grow to more than 9 billion by 2050, doubling the demand for food, fuel and fiber production and placing unprecedented stress on the health and viability of soils. To help ensure soil health, General Mills has made a three-year, $2 million commitment to The Nature Conservancy, Soil Health Institute and Soil Health Partnership to support the development of tools and resources for farmers, landowners, and supply chain leaders to achieve widespread adoption of soil health practices.

"Soil health is critical for everyone including farmers, farm communities, consumers, and companies," said Jerry Lynch, Chief Sustainability Officer at General Mills. "We are grateful to partner with farmers in our supply chain in their ongoing work to build healthy soils, and welcome further collaboration with all interested parties in the value chain."

Collaborating across business, science and policy sectors will help achieve meaningful soil health outcomes more quickly and at an unprecedented scale. Specifically, these organizations will partner to:

- Improve soil health measurements and standards;

- Increase support for soil health practice adoption by absentee landowners;

- Target, plan and expand the field network of on-farm demonstration sites;

- Coordinate soil health activities and communications for maximum impact;

- Mobilize and support diverse constituents in advancing public policy solutions.

"This commitment from General Mills will help us plan for strategic growth and expansion into new cropping systems, new partnerships and new geographies, both inside and outside the Upper Midwest where we have focused our efforts so far," said Nick Goeser, Director of the Soil Health Partnership. "It will also assist us in developing a framework to help others working on soil health efforts in the areas of research, education and networking."

According to the organizations' leaders, the scale-up of integrated research and soil health promotion is essential to enhancing global food production and protecting the ecosystem.

"The needs for advancing soil health are far greater than any single organization can provide -- public or private," said Wayne Honeycutt, President and CEO of the Soil Health Institute. "Soil health management systems can build resilience to drought as well as provide protection from other extreme weather events, such as flooding. In fact, when we increase soil organic carbon by a single percent -- just 1 percent -- we increase soil water-holding capacity by approximately 2,500 to 12,000 gallons per acre in many agricultural soils. These same soil health practices that are good for farmers can also improve water quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance pollinator and other wildlife habitat. Partnering is the way we can achieve national scale of such benefits."

"Healthy soil is the foundation for all life, yet we estimate that less than 10 percent of U.S. soils are managed optimally today," said Michael Doane, Global Director of Working Lands for The Nature Conservancy. "With a goal to transform the soil health management systems on at least 50 percent of US croplands by 2025, healthier soils can create substantial economic benefits for farmers and provide consumers and future generations with resilient food systems, clean water and a stable climate."

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