In October 2018, researchers and subject experts from around the world met for the Soil Health Institute’s Conference on Connections Between Soil Health and Human Health. Attended by nearly 200 scientists and organization leaders, including Rodale Institute Chief Scientist Dr. Andrew Smith, the Conference concluded by presenting 10 recommendations focused on advancing the connection between soil health and human health through science and policy.

The recommendations include utilizing long-term agricultural studies to track soil health, developing research sites in varied geographical areas, and opening a center focused on the interaction between soil health, our food system, and human health.

Conference participants also recommended increased communication to stakeholders, regionally and globally, by integrating existing data across disciplines into a comprehensive summary. Cooperation among research fields was also identified as a priority, with a need to identify fields that affect human health such as the soil microbiome, nutrient density, and the human-soil interaction and its effect on community well-being.

You can read the Conference’s full 10 recommendations here.

Rodale Institute is committed to advancing the connection between soil health and human health and implementing these recommendations. Here are some of the ways our work is taking steps toward achieving those goals:

  • Rodale Institute pioneered the long-term agricultural study with our Farming Systems Trial. For nearly 40 years, FST has been collecting data comparing conventional and organic grain production through a variety of weather events and environmental conditions and tracking the systems’ impacts on soil health.
  • The Vegetable Systems Trial has been monitoring nutrient density data of conventional and organic produce and is intended to run for over 20 years, providing another insight into the long-term connections between soil health and nutrition.
  • We expanded our geographical research zone by opening a new Regional Resource Center in Marion, Iowa. This Center will allow us to observe the differences in conditions between the Eastern and Midwestern United States and its implications for large-scale regenerative agriculture.
  • We’ve partnered with The Plantrician Project on the Regenerative Health Institute, a new research and community hub focused on ways to improve our healthcare system through an organic, plant-based diet. The Regenerative Health Institute has the power to bring together thought leaders and stakeholders in the medical, nutritional, and agricultural fields to change the ways we think about medicine and human health.
  • A new organic farm consulting arm of Rodale Institute engages agricultural producers on the benefits of regenerative organic and provides one-on-one mentoring to farmers who wish to transition to organic and improve their soil health.
  • Our research team continues to engage in transdisciplinary study of the interaction between soil health and arenas like the compost microbiome, watershed impacts, meat production, and
  • Rodale Institute partnered with stakeholders across the non-profit and private sectors to establish the new Regenerative Organic Certification, which will go above and beyond the USDA Certified Organic label and promote soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. Currently engaged in a global Pilot Program across 9 countries, this standard will communicate and examine the benefits of regenerative agriculture across the world.
Read the full recommendations

We want your recommendations too! What do you think can be done to better connect human and soil health? Comment below on areas you would like to see new research or collaboration.

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