Healthy Soils

Improving agricultural management practices to improve soil health, reduce nutrient runoff into area waterways,  conserve water, and increase crop yields and quality. We collaborate with industry, research centers, agencies and environmental organizations to advance multidisciplinary and whole system management practices for the agricultural lands that impact our nation’s waters.

Read a summary of our agricultural work here.

Our Work:

Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters

No-till protects soil health and resiliency. Photo Credit: NRCS.

Along with universities and organizations, we are working to advance regenerative agriculture practices to reduce soil erosion, prevent nutrient runoff, and support economically and environmentally resilient farms through engagement with carbon markets. We are investigating ways to “demystify” regenerative agriculture by measuring specific microbes associated with beneficial soil traits.

Soil and water research and policy leaders, headed by The Ohio State University with support from Greenleaf Advisors, LLC, Greenleaf Communities, and the University of Arkansas launched a workshop and symposium series dedicated to the development of multidisciplinary and whole system management practices for the agricultural lands that impact our nation’s waters. A collaborative multi-year effort, the series has been organized around the development of data-driven, case studies highlighting conservation practices to reduce nutrient exports to water resources, improve soil quality, and increase yields. In 2020, we organized a sensor technology workshop with the Illinois State Water Survey and Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to benefit agricultural soil health for water use efficiency, carbon sequestration and plant nutrient availability.

Soil health and regenerative agriculture - sensors, technology, and markets

There is a growing interest in smart agriculture that allows farmers to maximize yields while using minimal inputs as well as an interest from the market in minimizing risk and investing in the protection of soil, water, and carbon resources. By deploying sensors and mapping fields, farmers can begin to understand soil health and crop production at a micro scale, conserve resources, and reduce impacts on the environment. We are continuing this initiative by collaborating with researchers and farmers on scaling and improving technologies and connecting farmers to markets for compensation of management practices that protect soil, water, and climate.

Gypsum as a Best Management Practice

Nutrient runoff from agricultural fields impacts the integrity of aquatic ecosystems, and the quality of water resources across the country. Excess phosphorus contributes to annual algal blooms in Great Lakes systems, killing wildlife, polluting drinking water with toxins, and disrupting economic growth. Gypsum is shown to reduce phosphorus loading from fields. Greenleaf, alongside our research and industry partners, helped inform NRCS Conservation Practice Standard Code 333 on the use of gypsum as a soil amendment.

Research results in the Maumee Basin of Ohio (led by The Ohio State University) and the Walnut Creek watershed in Indiana (led by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) demonstrate how gypsum helps sediment and nutrients stay on the land and out of the water.

From the Ground Up

Perennial Biomass to Reduce Nitrates

Agricultural production in the Midwest has been associated with nutrient resource losses through water, causing eutrophication in Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds, local impairment of drinking water sources, and Gulf Hypoxia.

Greenleaf provided communications, development, and outreach for Argonne National Laboratory on its agricultural research in Illinois where they study the growth of native grasses in otherwise unproductive farmland to produce bioenergy crops, thereby reducing nutrient pollutant flows into streams and sequestering greenhouse gases in soils.

Investing in Our Planet: Earth Day 2022

This year’s Earth Day theme – Invest in Our Planet – calls for bold action; broad innovation; and equitable implementation; which Greenleaf advances through sustainable investment forums, global climate policy, nature-based solutions, renewable energy, and green initiatives in underserved communities. Sustainable Financial Investments: The annual Sustainable Investment Conference returns to Chicago this year on November […]

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Moving Towards a Healthy and Sustainable World –
Reflections on Greenleaf’s contributions in 2021

Greenleaf, in collaboration with many, is making progress towards a more sustainable and just world that includes a safe climate, clean and available freshwater supplies, healthy soils, equitable resources, and good governance. Please consider supporting our work through a tax-deductible donation. We developed economic research to inform domestic and international climate policy and support society-wide […]

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Greenleaf celebrates Earth Day and recommits to advancing solutions that Restore our Earth

On Earth Day, we recommit to advancing solutions that will Restore our Earth, including attendance to a rapidly changing climate that governs the ecosystems which support life. The interconnections between natural systems are profound; the healthy soils that produce nutrient-rich crops also filter freshwater resources and purify the air. Healing these systems for a healthy world requires a whole of society approach with policies that are informed by sound science and support sustainable practices.

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