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This $19 million research project is designed to improve soil health and land management

Courtesy of Noble Research Institute

Pasture and rangeland soils contain about 20% of the world’s soil organic carbon (SOC) stock. However, over time they have deteriorated due to poor management or conversion to cropland. With proper care and use of best management practices, farmers could prevent the land from losing its ability to grow healthy plants, and maintain flood and drought resilience.

Colorado State University and several partners are collaborating on a $19 million research project that focuses on soil health and land management.

Farmers and ranchers have tried methods to improve the overall health of their land, which could in turn create more business opportunities. But in order to efficiently do this, they need instruments that are costly and not easily accessible.

The “Metrics, Management, and Monitoring” research project will help examine farmer socioeconomics and how management decisions are influencing the health of the ecosystem.

Participation will include members from Noble Research Institute, Colorado State University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, University of Wyoming, National Grazing Lands Coalition, USDA-ARS, Savory Institute, Snaplands LLC, The Nature Conservancy and the U.K.'s Quanterra Systems.

Francesca Cortrufo, one of the co-lead researchers and a professor at the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Colorado State University, says the goal is to provide information that will allow farmers to make decisions into the future of best management practices.

"That can on one hand make them get climate change, but on the other hand also make their land more resilient to climate change, more productive and overall improve their well-being," she said.

The $19 million in funding will cover instruments such as “eddy towers,” which monitor the exchange of energy, CO2 and water from land to the atmosphere. Additional funding will go towards data analysis and sampling.

The project officially launched in October and is expected to be completed in the next five years. It will also create job opportunities for students and scientists who are in their early careers.

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