Wayne Honeycutt is the CEO of the Soil Health Institute – not to be confused with the Soil Health Partnership. The Soil Health Institute is focused on the science of soil health and how different practices impact different elements of the soil.
Honeycutt’s interest in the soil stems from a big “A-ha!” moment as he conducted research on the soil in Maine. In one study, he was able to double the yield of potatoes in one cropping system by either irrigating or by improving soil health. After soil health improved, he discovered irrigating no longer boosted yield. Soil health was the answer on that Maine farm – and Honeycutt remains convinced the same can be said for many farmers in many regions of the country.
“The whole concept of soil health is holistic. There are chemical, physical and biological properties. It’s like human health. For human health, we don’t just go in and ask for our blood pressure to be checked and feel like we have a complete picture. We have many other things that we want to be analyzed, including what’s in our blood. It’s a similar way with soil health. There are not just one or two things. There’s a whole suite of things that need to be analyzed,” Honeycutt said.
For now, the Soil Health Institute is focused on analyzing each aspect of soil health and figuring out how to increase farmer adoption. They are working on programs to quantify the business case for farmers and identify the best measurements and tools for farmers to select management practices that improve soil health.
Farmer adoption is key.
According to Honeycutt, the models indicate that if farmers will adopt soil health practices on at least three-fourths of land, then all greenhouse gas emissions for the entire U.S. agriculture sector are reduced. Also significantly reduced, by millions of pounds, would be the amount of nutrients that are lost to U.S. waterways.
“And, of course, these losses are not just environmental issues and impact. They also directly impact the pocketbook of farmers, too,” said Honeycutt.
Listen in below to learn more about this innovative and exciting new area where scientific discovery will eventually make prescriptive soil health a reality.