A Hawaiʻi Soil Health Index to Guide Farmer Adoption of Sustainable Management Practices

Project Overview

GW19-201
Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $23,036.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G176-20-W7503
Grant Recipient: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Jamie (Jayme) Barton, M.A.
Hawaii Agriculture Research Center
Major Professor:
Dr. Susan Crow
University of Hawaii Manoa
Jonathan Deeniki
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Commodities

  • Agronomic: grass (misc. annual), grass (misc. perennial)
  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beets, cabbages, carrots, greens (leafy), taro
  • Additional Plants: herbs

Practices

  • Crop Production: application rate management, conservation tillage, continuous cropping, cover crops, crop improvement and selection, cropping systems, crop rotation, double cropping, fertigation, fertilizers, intercropping, no-till, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, indicators, soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: composting, nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, leadership development, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    The state of Hawaiʻi enacted the Greenhouse Gas Sequestration Task Force act to begin establishing soil health criterion for a certification program where farmers and landowners may be rewarded for healthy management practices. For soil health to be accurately used as a tool, indicators must be calibrated for local conditions to establish sensitive, farmer accessible indicators, threshold values of measured indicators, and to understand soil health’s relationship to yield and carbon sequestration. Previous research identified 14 sensitive soil health indicators for Hawaiʻi, but needs to be further refined and validated to calculate soil health scores and indices, and to be relevant to farmer needs, including yield. Our research will address these shortcomings by establishing replicated on-field demonstration trials of varying management practices. We will work with farmers and facilitate farmer-to-farmer training sessions and farm tours through annual soil health workshops and a developed soil health web tool. These strategies will allow us to understand which soil health indicators are important to farmers and effectively connect soil science to farmer decision-making. Our objectives are to: (i) validate Soil Health Index for Hawaiʻi, (ii) analyze and monitor soil health for two-years to quantify management effects, and through seasons and crop cycles to identify best soil sampling time, (iii) utilize collected soil health data to initialize Soil Health Web Tool for Hawaiʻi to develop realistic management recommendations for farmers with quantified soil health benefits across the diverse land uses and soils in Hawaiʻi, and (iv) solidify farmer network in Hawaiʻi through annual soil health workshops, farmer-to-farmer training sessions, and farm tours. Our research will establish criterion for a farmer incentive program for sustainable management, use soil health to improve air and water quality, mitigate climate change, and maintain our soil resources, and empower producer decision-making through the workshops and web tool.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Validate Soil Health Index for Hawaiʻi, including: (i) establishing baselines for a variety crop and soil types, (ii) measuring indicator sensitivities, (iii) calibrating index and scoring for different agricultural management practices in diverse soil types, and (iv) assessing the relationship between the index and yield.
    2. Analyze and monitor soil health for two-years (aggrading, degrading, maintaining) to quantify management effects, and through seasons and crop cycles to identify best soil sampling time.
    3. Utilize collected soil health data to initialize Soil Health Web Tool for Hawaiʻi to develop realistic management recommendations for farmers with quantified soil health benefits across the diverse land uses and soils in Hawaiʻi.
    4. Solidify farmer network in Hawaiʻi through annual soil health workshops, farmer-to-farmer training sessions, and farm tours.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.