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The No-Till Growers Podcast Network

Apr 24, 2023


Christine Sprunger is a soil scientist and head of the Soil Health and Ecosystem Ecology Lab at Michigan State University. With a deep-rooted passion for soil science, Christine's research doesn't shy away from the complexity of soil health and what it means for both the researcher and the farmer. Soil health is a laborious concept that requires a deep understanding of the ecosystem's overall functioning. To accurately assess soil health, it's crucial to identify relevant indicators that connect ecological processes with the practical management decisions farmers make.

Some of Christine's research has revolved around nematodes. Nematodes, as microscopic worm-like organisms, play a critical role in soil ecosystems by feeding on bacteria, fungi, plant roots, and each other! These diverse feeding groups can serve as vital soil health indicators, allowing researchers and farmers to measure the ecological functioning and productivity of their agroecosystems. In addition to nematodes, she has researched the perenniality of roots, especially deep-rooted perennial legumes, and how they can be a crucial component of soil health as they contribute significantly to not only soil carbon sequestration processes, but also nitrogen storage capacity.

Ultimately, soil health should be measured from various angles, prioritizing individual management goals and local contexts. Christine highlights the necessity of choosing suitable soil health indicators to link the scientific understanding of ecological function and practical farming approaches. She emphasizes that effective communication between researchers and farmers plays a vital role in selecting appropriate soil health indicators. By continuously collaborating and integrating farmers' concerns, researchers can ensure that these indicators address the desired outcomes and cater to farmers' specific needs.

Mentioned in this episode…

"Long term implementation of regenerative practices is actually shifting the nematode community, contributing to greater overall ecosystem services like carbon accumulation and nitrogen retention... Understanding the linkages between nematode communities and various soil health indicators is crucial in realizing the actual soil health outcome and overall benefit to the farmer."

- Christine Sprunger

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