Fred Provenza, one of the country’s leading ecologists, will link the health of soils and plants with the health of livestock and, ultimately, the people who consume them at the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s inaugural Soil Health Innovations Conference.
Provenza is professor emeritus of Behavioral Ecology in the Department of Wildland Resources at Utah State University, where he worked for 35 years directing an award-winning research group that pioneered an understanding of how learning influences foraging behavior and how behavior links soil, plants, herbivores, and humans.
He also is one of the founders of BEHAVE, an international network of scientists, ranchers, farmers, and land managers committed to integrating behavioral principles with local knowledge to enhance environmental, economic, and cultural values of rural and urban communities.
“Foodscapes with complex mixtures of grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees are nutrition centers and pharmacies with vast arrays of phytochemicals,” Provenza said. “The mix of plants in turn affects the health of the soil, plants, and animals.”
Phytochemicals are chemical compounds produced by a plant’s metabolism. They generally are biologically active in the plant and play a role in its growth or defense against competitors, pathogens, or predators.
“(The phytochemicals) are fundamental for ecosystem health at all levels,” Provenza said, “from soil to plants through mediated interactions, including the health of animals, and then that scales up to our health when we eat plants or when we eat animals that are eating really diverse styles.”
NCAT postponed the Soil Health Innovations Conference last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will now be a virtual conference, scheduled for March 8 and 9, 2021. Registration is open at https://soilinnovations.ncat.org/register/.
Emerging technologies and innovative practices have recently begun to shine a light on the importance of healthy soils for the future of sustainable agriculture. And those promising new approaches are dawning at a time when there is a growing commitment among producers, food companies, and policy makers to improve the resilience of healthy food systems at their very roots.
The conference will bring together leading experts and innovative farmers from around the U.S. to share the latest in soil science, best practices in soil management, and the emerging technologies that will drive the future of sustainable and regenerative agriculture.
NCAT is sponsoring the conference in cooperation with USDA Rural Development, Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), and Montana State University.
For more information on the Soil Health Innovations Conference, including biographies of Provenza and other speakers, go to https://soilinnovations.ncat.org/.