377-1 Strengthening the Science of Soil Health through a New NRCS Network.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is developing a new soil health network as a new agency strategy that is designed to provide science-based, geographically-referenced information on soil health status to assess the effect of management practices on different soils and under various climates and land uses, and to use that information for conservation planning and facilitating adoption of soil health management systems. The network will be a long-term project to support the overall objectives of NRCS, in particular, to assist in advancing the science that will support soil health and the development of effective soil health management systems, as well as the relationships between soil health and those soil functions necessary for food and fiber production and the provision of ecosystem services. The network will be jointly led by the Soil Science Division (SSD) and the Soil Health Division (SHD) and will build upon NRCS-wide technical expertise, as well as the expertise of research and field partners nationwide. The initial focus of the network is on the compilation and analysis of existing data and information and the coordination of ongoing local, regional and national soil health assessment efforts. This will include the identification of minimum data sets and methods standards of soil health indicators and the development and dissemination of consistent data collection and analysis protocols. A second phase of the effort will focus on collaborative intensive long-term monitoring activities will focus on a core set of sites tied to combinations of soil, climate, and landscape positions to evaluate the core soil health principles NRCS has been advocating, i.e., minimize disturbance, increase diversity, keep a living root growing and maintain residue cover. This presentation will provide an overview of the network including initial project outputs, ongoing activities and proposed future efforts.