Improving yields through soil health practices on organic farms

Healthy soils are the backbone of our food system and essential to global food security. They are crucial for resilient crop production and they support a diversity of organisms vital to decomposition and nutrient cycling. They reduce erosion, increase water holding capacity, protect against soil compaction, increase nutrient availability and can play a key role in combating climate change because they maintain carbon stores for long periods of time.

However, adoption of new practices is limited by the lack of communication between the scientific community and farmers as well as perceived risk associated with the adoption of new practices. This is in part due to the fact that different soil building practices may not necessarily have an equitable effect on yields. Some soil health promoting techniques may increase yields whereas others may have a negative impact. While most farmers are committed stewards of the land, many operations maintain thin margins of return. Thus, when considering the adoption of new practices, it is important for farmers to be able to evaluate which practices are most likely to promote environmental sustainability while simultaneously maintaining (or increasing) their bottom line. Understanding the interaction between different management practices on soil health and yield, is important for any farm operation but perhaps even more so for organic farmers whose success is directly tied to the health of their soils.

This project quantifies the effects of specific soil health building techniques on yield performance and provides farmers with actionable recommendations.


This project is underway, so check back soon for more information!


Dr. Timothy Bowles, University of California, Berkeley
Isaac Vendig, University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Lauren Ponisio, University of California, Riverside


The Organic Center
GRO Organic