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The US Department of Agriculture defines soil health as “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.” But what does the term mean in practice, and why does it matter for human health, agricultural productivity, and ecosystem resilience?

In December 2019, Resources for the Future (RFF) and Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for Sustainability explored these questions and highlighted the important role of soil health in finding climate solutions.

The event opened with a short primer on soil health by Harold van Es, professor of soil and crop sciences at Cornell University. The primer included an overview of the current health of US soils, what healthier soils might look like in the future, and how research suggests we can foster such improvements.