Soil health is the basis for the ecosystem services that soils deliver to society, such as plant growth, erosion control, and pollutant mitigation. Its great importance to agriculture has prompted the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a national Soil health Initiative to meet the challenges of farming in the 21st century. The NRCS has identified four key management practices that lead to soil health, while helping to ensure that soils will be resilient in the face of climate change and increasing demand for food as the world population grows and developing economies improve. However, important questions remain as to how these practices should be implemented and their results assessed. For example, does managing for soil health differ from the management practices in organic farming? Can soil health be quantified or is it only an intangible, qualitative concept? Our panel, which includes academic, agency, and grower perspectives, will discuss these and other big questions that are driving new research and stimulating changes in the way agriculture is done today.
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