Session 2: Resources for Observing, Monitoring & Increasing Understanding of On-Farm Soil Health


The purpose of this session is to work with farmers to share some of the 'best available information', tools, Native Hawaiian 'ike, farm mentors, local service providers and researchers to support the observation and monitoring of  on-farm soil health. These resources will expand over the next few years as we grow our farmer-to-farmer soil health network. This session was most recently held with a cohort of farmers from Hawai'i Island at O.K Farms with Troy Keolanui and special guest speaker, Kristy Lam with the S(HEE)R - Soil Health Environment and Ecosystem Resilience Lab. O.K farm's agroforestry plot. The vision for installing the 5 acre agroforestry plot amongst O.K Farm's orchard operation and the needs and concerns for scaling this design was shared with the group of farmers, along with the design, field prep, installation, maintenance and ongoing monitoring for their agroforestry plot. 

During the workshop, farmers passed around a bag of soil from their farm as a means to share about the properties they observe with their soil. As part of this conversation, cohort members discussed challenges, goals and practices for managing soil moisture, drainage, compaction, aeration, nutrient retention and cycling, soil aggregate structure. Following the Round Robin, the workshop speakers shared traditional and modern tools and practices used to observe and monitor soil health in the field.

Learning Objectives for cohort participants:

  • Co-create and identify a diversity of traditional and modern tools and practices used to observe and monitor soil health in the field;
  • Gain a working knowledge of a suite of tools and practices that can be used to observe and measure improvements in soil health on their own farm;
  • Empower each cohort member to develop a personalized soil health field assessment for their farm and monitoring schedule;
  • Increase confidence in developing a monitoring schedule and applyingbest practices for tracking soil health on their farm (time of year, location consistency, recent disturbance, weather);
  • Ability to identify synergies with other farmers in the cohort (e.g. similar operations, management challenges, or phases of development, shared interests in trialing practices, equipment or sourcing inputs).

Screenshot: Example of field indicators developed by NRCS for assessing soil health.

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Amy Koch
NRCD - Assistant Director for Soil Science
Kristy Lam
SHEER - Soil Health Environment and Ecosystem Resilience Lab