Soil Health Benchmark Study

Soil Health Benchmark Study

Building and preserving soil health is a fundamental component of a secure food system that effectively protects ecosystems and communities.


The Soil Health Benchmark Study is designed to help farmers monitor and evaluate the nuanced soil health strengths and challenges that can exist simultaneously within their fields. The study was developed and is administered by Pasa Sustainable Agriculture in collaboration with farmers and partners including the Cornell Soil Health Testing Laboratory, Future Harvest and the Million Acre Challenge, Penn State Extension, Rodale Institute, and Stroud Water Research Center. 


The Soil Health Benchmark Study is one of the largest and most diverse community soil health research projects in the nation, amassing data from a wide range of farm scales and management systems, soil types, and farmer experiences.


Identifying soil health benchmarks will help farmers determine whether their soil health management  practices are achieving the desired results, or where improvements may be possible.  


In addition, farmers will be provided with opportunities to learn from one-another, and collaborate on innovative solutions to soil health management problems- through regional hubs, workshops, webinars and field-school programs.


Soil health indicators measured for the benchmark include physical, chemical and biological attributes, such as aggregate stability, organic matter, microbial respiration and nutrient levels.  These soil attributes will then be placed in the context of field management techniques, including tillage frequency and intensity, cover cropping, and organic matter inputs.


In 2020, Future Harvest worked with 30 Farm Research Collaborators, which include vegetable farms, pastured livestock farms, and grain/row crop farms. Because the value of the study will grow as the number of participating farms increases, we are now accepting Community Scientist applications as well as Farm Research Collaborator applications.

Who Can Participate: 


If you own or manage a farm in Maryland and are passionate about improving your soil health, you are eligible to participate as a Community Scientist or Research Collaborator. If you own or manage a farm in Virginia, West Virginia, or Delaware, you may join as a Community Scientist. Here’s the difference:

Community Scientist
Research Collaborator

How to Participate:


We are looking for a diverse array of different farm types from various regions throughout MD, VA, WV and DE. Please fill out this brief survey with some basic farm information, to find out if the Soil Health Benchmark Study is a good fit, for your farm, and for our research objectives.


Got questions? Contact Lisa Garfield at