WC-20 Soil: The Invisible Link Between Food, Water, and Everything Else

Healthy soil plays a crucial role within the food-energy-water nexus, as essential to the water supply as it is to food production. For example, of the total global annual precipitation falling on land, 61% becomes green water (water stored in soils and available for plants), while 39% goes to rivers, lakes, and aquifers. Presentations in this section will explore the importance of healthy soil for addressing climate change and preserving our water supply. We will then hear about regenerative agricultural practices from the farm perspective, followed by policy options to improve soil security for generations to come.

Moderator: Allison Aubrey, National Public Radio

Speakers:

  • Lara Bryant, Soil Health Fellow, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Jonathan Cobb, Farmer, Texas
  • Diana Donlon, Director, Cool Foods Campaign, Center for Food Safety
  • Heather Gall, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Pennsylvania State University
  • Henry Lin, Professor of Hydropedology/Soil Hydrology, Pennsylvania State University
  • Christine Morgan, Professor, Texas A&M University

Allison Aubrey is a correspondent for NPR News. Aubrey is a 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards nominee for her broadcast radio coverage of food and nutrition. And, along with her colleagues on The Salt, inner of a 2012 James Beard Award for best food blog. Her stories can be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She’s also host of the NPR video series Tiny Desk Kitchen. Through her reporting Aubrey can focus on her curiosities about food and culture. She has investigated the nutritional, and taste, differences between grass fed and corn feed beef. Aubrey looked into the hype behind the claims of antioxidants in berries and the claim that honey is a cure-all for allergies.

Lara Bryant is a Soil Health Fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Growing up in rural East Tennessee, Bryant learned the importance of sustainable agriculture. Later she studied soil science and then worked for years as an environmental chemist, analyzing soil for public safety. When she realized that people are the most effective tool for change, she made a career change and for the past several years has worked for non-profits in Washington, DC as an advocate for sustainable agriculture and soil health. For NRDC, Bryant advocates for public policy that recognizes the importance of soil as the foundation of a resilient future with plentiful food, sustainable energy, and clean, safe water for all. (202-717-8236; lbryant@nrdc.org)

Jonathan Cobb is a soil rancher and is passionate about regenerating the soil and providing healthy nutrient-dense food for his family and community. After seven years of row crop farming 2,500 acres with his father, Jonathan nearly left the farm. It was an introduction to soil health that gave hope and led him to stay and change the paradigm. Jonathan and his sister started Green Fields Farm in 2013 and currently provide grass-fed & finished beef and pastured eggs from their family farm in central Texas. He also works with Green Cover Seed to provide custom cover crop mixes as a tool to help others regenerate the life in their soils.

Diana Donlon is the Center for Food Safety’s (CFS’s) Food and Climate Campaign Director where she leads Soil Solutions—a program communicating the critical importance of rebuilding soil health for food security, fresh water availability, and climate stability. Before coming to work for CFS, Diana worked for a variety of family foundations supporting youth and sustainable agriculture programs and was one of the founders of Roots of Change, a state-wide collaborative transitioning California’s food system. As a program executive at the Goldman Environmental Prize, she helped elevate the critical causes of environmental activist around the world.

Heather Gall is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. She studies the effects of agricultural management practices on water quality, with an emphasis on the fate, transport, and impacts of emerging contaminants (ECs). Heather is interested in understanding how, when, and why soils act as either a sink or source ECs, and how legacy agricultural activities influence the trajectory of landscape responses to changes in management practices. (814-863-1817; heg12@psu.edu)

Henry Lin received his PhD in Soil Science from Texas A&M University. His research and teaching program focuses on the development of hydropedology as an intertwined branch of soil science and hydrology that embraces integrated studies of the landscape-soil-water-ecosystem relationship across scales. He is a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America and of the Agronomy Society of America. He has published over 190 papers and edited ten special issues of various scientific journals. He is interested in the holistic understanding of the food-energy-water nexus as it relates to soil health, green water, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, and the Earth’s Critical Zone. (814-865-6726; henrylin@psu.edu)

Christine Morgan is a Professor at Texas A&M University. Soil security requires maintenance and improvement of the soil resource to produce food, fiber, and fresh water, to contribute to sustainable energy production, adapt to climate changes, and to maintain biodiversity, human health, and function in ecosystems. Achieving soil security involves scientific, economic, industry and political engagement to effectively and credibly inform policy frameworks and implement appropriate actions. Soil security has a number of dimensions that interact with environmental, social, and economic components. A soil security framework can be defined using five dimensions, which include capability, condition, capital, connectivity and codification. (979-845-3603; cmorgan@ag.tamu.edu)

Organizers:

  • Diana Donlon, Director, Cool Foods Campaign, Center for Food Safety
  • Lara Bryant, Soil Health Fellow, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Henry Lin, Professor of Hydropedology/Soil Hydrology, Pennsylvania State University
  • Heather Gall, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Pennsylvania State University

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