Texas A&M University Supporting Soil: Improving the way scientists measure and communicate the value of soil

Dr. Morgan and her team are helping farmers and the public understand the importance of soil health. No-till farming, or growing crops without disturbing the soil through tillage, is a soil health-promoting technique that allows farmers to grow crops and improve water quality and quantity at the same time. However, some farmers in Texas are not using these practices. Researchers want to understand why farmers aren’t adopting no-till techniques so that they can learn how to better identify and communicate its benefits to producers. 

With a transdisciplinary approach, researchers integrate soil science, hydrology, economics, sociology, and communications. They are developing better protocols for how to measure different soil processes and quantify these advantages to both producers and society. They are also searching for which soil health and social benefits resonate best with various stakeholders so that they know how to present their evidence in the most convincing way. 

Farming is a constant problem-solving business. Farmers need to form and update their choices based on physical conditions, such as weather and soil moisture, as well as biological conditions, such as insects, bacteria, and fungi. Innovative farmers mentor and rely on each other’s experiences and observations to help inform soil management decisions. By developing better ways of identifying, measuring, and communicating the benefits of soil health-promoting practices, the researchers are solving farmers’ real-world problems with creative and practical solutions.   

This project is enhancing dialogue among farmers, watershed stakeholders, scientists, and the public so that there is more adoption of management strategies that will fortify and secure our soil for future generations. 

“I am a Native Texan who truly cares about the fate of our productive agricultural soils in Texas and the U.S.  I thought I would go to law school, but once I took a soil science class, I was hooked on studying soils.” 

– Cristine Morgan

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
Retaking the Field Volume 4: Science Breakthroughs for Thriving Farms and a Healthier Nation Click to download report

More Stories from the community

Harnessing a Flood of Data to Improve Rice Production

Dr. McCouch and Dr. Wang analyzed genetic sequencing of all the rice varieties whose seeds lie in the public domain to determine the genetics responsible for production levels in specific conditions. They have started to identify genomic regions that best accommodate a range of temperatures and carbon dioxide levels.

Read More
Banishing Bad Bacteria: Controlling E. Coli To Protect Poultry and People

Dr. Mellata and her team’s project focuses on improving food safety by reducing harmful bacteria in poultry products. Its major goals are: 1) advance our understanding of the zoonotic risk of ExPEC (extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli) infections from chickens; and 2) develop and evaluate a vaccine for chickens to protect them and humans against ExPEC and Salmonella infections.

Read More
Boosting Bees: Improving bee health to benefit farmers

Because pollinators are critical for the production of most berry crops, Dr. Isaacs and his transdisciplinary team investigate pollinator ecology and management, economic value, and benefits for agriculture. The group includes researchers experienced in honeybee management, wild bee ecology, and pest management.

Read More