Elaine Vizka (center) shows off the range of soils and effects of bare surface, soil cover, and living roots on erosion and runoff to local high school students with the help of Casey McGrath (right).
Elaine recently received exciting news that her Graduate Student proposal to Western SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) is funded. Her project is titled “A Hawaiʻi Soil Health Index to Guide Farmer Adoption of Sustainable Management Practices”. Her research will establish criterion for a farmer incentive program for sustainable management, use soil health to improve air and water quality, mitigate climate change, and maintain our soil resources, and empower producer decision-making through the workshops and web tool.
The State of Hawaiʻi enacted the Greenhouse Gas Sequestration Task Force act to begin establishing soil health criterion for a certification program where farmers and landowners may be rewarded for healthy management practices. For soil health to be accurately used as a tool, the indicators must be calibrated for local conditions to establish sensitive farmer accessible indicators, threshold values of measured indicators, and to understand soil health’s relationship to yield and carbon sequestration. Previous research identified 14 sensitive soil health indicators for Hawaiʻi, but these need to be further refined to calculate soil health scores and indices and to be relevant to farmer needs, including yield. Elaine’s research will address these shortcomings by establishing replicated on-field demonstration trials of varying management practices. She also will work with farmers and facilitate farmer-to-farmer training sessions and farm tours through annual soil health workshops.