Through our ongoing field studies we are monitoring the impacts of our practices to better understand the relationship between applied principles of regenerative agriculture and the indicators that will lead to repeatable desired outcomes in soil health, water resources, biodiversity, and economic health.
Managing for Soil Health
Managing for soil health contributes to long-term agronomic, environmental, and economic sustainability. This leads to improved plant quality and yields; increased resilience under environmental stress; improved water quantity and quality; reduced erosion and leaching; reduced input costs (i.e fertilizer, fuel); and increased efficiency of irrigation and other inputs.
We have a set of performance indicators that we have developed with the help of Soil Life to monitor the outcomes of our regenerative practices.
Infiltration is the velocity at which water enters the soil and is an indicator of how freely water is able to move through a soil profile. It is crucial to soil health because when infiltration is compromised, more water runs off the field and less is available for root uptake, plant growth, and the activity of microbes and other organisms.
Aggregate stability is the ability of aggregated soil particles to resist disintegration when exposed to water, wind, or mechanical disturbance. This ability to maintain structure has a major impact on porosity and thus, water, air, nutrient, and biota movement in soils. Changes in aggregate stability are one of few early indicators of soil degradation with a decrease in stability often indicating a greater occurrence of clogged pores and surface crusts that reduce infiltration and can lead to increased erosion.
Subsurface and surface hardness are indicators of soil compaction, measured in pounds per square inch of field penetration resistance using a penetrometer. Surface compaction results in increased runoff and erosion and decreased infiltration and water storage. Subsurface compaction contributes to poor drainage, aeration and water storage, as well as limited rooting depths (especially at 300+ psi) and mobility of soil organisms (including mycorrhizal fungi). This can lead to reduced plant uptake of water and nutrients, declines in yield and crop quality, and increased weed pressure.
Review our full science Plan.
Our Partners from Soil Life, a UC Davis based organization on a mission to change the way we look at soil, are helping us develop our testing protocols and long-term research plan. From our shared perspective, soil health analysis utilizes an emergent scientific understanding of biological, chemical, and physical properties, and thus requires a more holistic, integrated approach to sampling and testing compared to conventional soil tests.
Savory Institute’s Ecological Outcome Verification Program
We are also planning to monitor all of the land under our stewardship through the Savory Network’s Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) program, which verifies and validates positive outcomes in soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem function. Through EOV we are able to monitor and measure the impact of regenerative land management practices as well as document, share, and reproduce results throughout our region.