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
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