Soil Health Hawaii

Soil health is a topic of concern among a growing population of small-scale agriculturalists and an increasingly vocal public promoting sustainable and organic agriculture. It is also the current focus of a national initiative through the USDA-NRCS to provide relevant and useful information to farmers to improve long-term ecosystem function of agricultural soils.

A fundamental tenet of sustainable agriculture is the philosophy that sustainability is underpinned by maintaining a “healthy” soil. While there may be some agreement on the general academic definition of soil health as “…the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living system, within ecosystem and land-use boundaries, to sustain biological productivity, maintain the quality of air and water environments, and promote plant, animal, and human health” (Doran et al., 1996), there remains considerable debate among the soil science community as to how soil health should be measured.

To provide geographically specific information on Soil Health in Hawaii, we are asking: what metrics comprise the critical factors necessary to develop an organic matter-based soil health index for Hawaii’s diverse, tropical soils?  Further, what advice do we provide Hawaii (and Pacific Islander) farmers for management to improve soil health for greater resilience and sustainability of our agroecosystems in the future?