Nov 28, 2018
Soil Health Partnership tabs lead scientist to beef up research

The Soil Health Partnership has tapped Maria Bowman, a notable and experienced agricultural and resource economist, for the new position of lead scientist. Her role will be significant, guiding the organization in building a unique and extensive U.S. database of soil health samples from working farms, analyzing them and drawing conclusions that could impact agriculture for decades to come.

Bowman comes to the SHP having worked as an economist for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. In that role, she focused on the drivers of farmer adoption of soil health and conservation practices, the economics of antibiotic use in U.S. livestock production, and emerging issues related to food labeling. She holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

“The Soil Health Partnership project has the potential to create powerful change in agriculture, and our very foundation is substantive data collection and comprehensive analysis,” said Shefali Mehta, SHP executive director. “Adding a Lead Scientist is a significant step for SHP as we are now able to build a robust, internal science strategy and implement that plan. Dr. Bowman will dramatically enhance our ability to provide impactful analyses and summaries to our farmers and others.”

An initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, the Soil Health Partnership is an innovative long-term research effort that aims to show U.S. farmers how sustainability through soil health can also lead to increased profitability. It is the largest farmer-led soil health research project of its kind, testing and measuring the impact of farm management practices such as growing cover crops, practicing conservation tillage, and using advanced, science-based nutrient management techniques to reduce nutrient loss to air and water.

Findings could lead to a better understanding of the links between soil health, farm resiliency, economic viability and environmental impact.

“As a scientist and researcher, I have watched the work of the Soil Health Partnership with great interest,” Bowman said. “I am enthusiastic to be closely involved in this unprecedented research alongside farmers and field managers. It’s truly exciting to be part of the research from start to finish — from the field to the lab, through data analysis and communicating results to our growers and the public.”

In addition to leading the scientific and data plan for the SHP, Bowman will provide oversight of scientific progress of various projects within the partnership.

Before her work with the USDA, Bowman served as a fellow for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and as a Program Assistant for the Woods Hole Research Center where she studied the economics of farm systems in the Brazilian Amazon. She earned her Master of Science in Forest Economics and Management from Virginia Tech and her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from Juniata College.

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