University of California-Davis Rejuvenating Resources: Working with farmers to improve soil health

Healthy crops depend upon healthy soil. Dr. Scow leads a multi-disciplinary team of researchers working at UC Davis’ Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility and in farmers’ fields. Their goal is to build a more resilient and regenerative agricultural system by paying attention to what is happening below ground.    

Life abounds in soil, yet it is often neglected. The soil is where unseen communities drive numerous ecological processes - energy flow, nutrient cycling, waste removal - essential for growing our food. The team is working to understand the role of the soil microbiome in creating productive soils.  They investigate interactions among microorganisms, the soil’s physical-chemical environment, and the substances that flow through them. 

They are mapping the composition, functions, and relationships among species in soil to better understand what they need to flourish.  The aim is to have soil that is robust enough to survive droughts, attacks from pathogens, and other stressors.  

The researchers are already moving beyond the lab. Their various interconnected studies include work in the greenhouses, farmers’ fields, throughout farmer networks, and include both short and long-term field trials. 

Dr. Scow and her team cultivate partnerships and collaborate with farmers to support regenerated soil and thriving farms.  Together, they develop management practices that enhance the soil microbiome and promote healthy soils. They disseminate guidance on new approaches for growers to apply in their fields.  By regenerating and building more resilient agricultural systems, this research helps farmers increase their productivity today and preserve soil for future generations. 

“I fell in love with soil.  It is a living, precious, complex, and mysterious resource that takes centuries to form and can be lost in a blink of an eye. There is amazing diversity under our feet.  Soil is alive!” 

– Kate Scow 

Retaking The Field Volume 4 “Retaking the Field: Science Breakthroughs for Thriving Farms and a Healthier Nation” is a collaborative report from 20 FedByScience universities and the SoAR Foundation. The report highlights research projects in the five Science Breakthroughs areas identified as the most important fields to advance in agriculture by the year 2030: genomics, microbiomes, sensors, data and informatics, and transdisciplinary research. View The Issue
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