Skip Navigation

Soil Health Connections Symposium

March 15, 2022
Dr. Nazia Arbab presenting.
Dr. Nazia Arbab presented the many considerations which need to be included in an economic analysis of soil health and related ecosystem services.
. Dr. Mark Robson presenting.
Dr. Mark Robson provided an overview of the possibilities and consequences of soil contamination.

On March 15, 2022, seventy faculty and staff of Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station met at the Cook Campus Center for a full day, in-person event to assess efforts and inspire further work related to Soil Health. Organized by Dr. Stephanie Murphy, the Soil Health Connections symposium covered the range of topics from land use and conservation to climate and climate change mitigation, soil fertility and pest management, plant and animal health, soil structure aspects and water management, the soil microbiome, economic considerations, and soil contamination. Brief presentations by faculty or staff with current or previous work in these diverse Soil Health topics were followed by questions and discussion. The goal for the Soil Health Connections symposium was awareness of soil health research and outreach currently being performed at SEBS/NJAES and for subsequent networking to inspire collaborations and enhance further progress in agricultural sustainability for New Jersey.

Soil Health Connections was sponsored by NJAES as one of several Soil Health efforts made possible by the Vision 2025 funding. Vision 2025 is a strategic initiative of targeted investments in infrastructure, IT, and equipment to build greater capacity and capabilities at NJAES to address current and future needs of New Jersey and broader society. The goal of Vision 2025 is for NJAES programs, farms, field stations, business incubators, and centers to be recognized as national models that are sustainable, responsive, innovative, and inclusive.

Soil Health Connections was kicked off with welcome from NJAES Director of Resource and Economic Development Peggy Brennan-Tonetta and SEBS/NJAES Dean/Director of Research, Wendie Cohick. Stephanie Murphy, Director of the Rutgers Soil Testing Laboratory, provided a brief overview of soil health science and outreach efforts nationally, globally, and within Rutgers/NJAES. Brian Schilling, Director of RCE, spoke about land use, soil disturbance and preservation of agricultural and natural ecosystems. David Robinson elucidated links between soil and climate, and Marjorie Kaplan talked of the links between climate change mitigation and soil health. Max Haggblom and Lee Kerkhof shared methods of characterizing the soil microbiome and its relation to soil conditions and management. James White presented his research that links plant nutrition with uptake of soil microbes into roots and tissue. James Murphy presented relationships between soil conditions and plant health, and Peter Oudemans talked of the unique challenges of soil conditions for blueberry culture. The Mineral-Plant-Animal-Human Health spectrum was explained by Joseph Heckman. Daniel Gimenez and Jason Grabosky emphasized physical aspects of soil health, while Chris Obropta linked soil health to water quality and stormwater management. The economic factors and considerations of soil health practices were discussed by Nazia Arbab. And Mark Robson wrapped up the symposium by sharing experiences about potential contamination risks in soil.

In addition to the presentations, networking and conversations during lunch and breaks promoted development of internal connections and have undoubtedly led to cooperation and ideas to develop better research and additional funding proposals.

With full awareness of Rutgers/NJAES experts and efforts in soil health, we are better equipped to partner with State and federal agencies and other organizations to advance soil health on New Jersey’s farms and other lands.


  • Overview of Soil Health Concepts; SEBS/NJAES Soil Health Survey Results, Stephanie Murphy, Director, NJAES Soil Testing Lab
  • Land Use/Soil Disturbance and Conservation, Brian Schilling, Director, RCE
  • Climate Links to Soil Health - David Robinson, Marjorie Kaplan
  • Characterizing Soil Biology and Microbiomes - Max Haggblom, Lee Kerkhof
  • Soil Microbiology & Fertility - James White
  • Soil Fertility and Plant Health/Disease - James Murphy, Peter Oudemans
  • Mineral-Plant-Animal-Human Health Connections to Soil Health - Joseph Heckman
  • Physical Aspects of Soil Health - Daniel Gimenez, Jason Grabosky
  • Soil Health Impacts on Water Quality and Stormwater Management - Chris Obropta
  • Economic Considerations of Soil Health Practices. Incentive Programs - Nazia Arbab
  • Potential Contamination Risks in Soil – Mark Robson
  • Discussion, brainstorming, next steps. Wrap up: Call to action, establishing working group