Posted May 16, 2024 at 07:19am by Colleen Goodhue

UVM Announces New Soil Health Research and Extension Center

The University of Vermont is proud to announce the new Soil Health Research and Extension Center (SHREC), a cross-disciplinary research hub focused on advancing integrative soil health in Vermont. 

The opening of the new testing lab in Jeffords Hall at UVM is a game-changer for Vermont's soil research. Previously, testing had to be sent to out-of-state labs. Now, local testing will provide new insights into Vermont's soil conditions and strengthen collaboration between researchers and local farmers, driving sustainable soil management practices. 

“Food systems sustainability starts with soil,” said Deb Neher, Plant and Soil Science Professor and a Co-Principal Investigator of SHREC. In addition to nutrient analysis, SHREC will measure biological and physical factors to provide a comprehensive understanding of soil health and bolster climate change resilience within the regional food system. Once core metrics of soil chemistry, biology and physical properties are well established, the center will explore more advanced chemistry to measure contaminants of emerging concern.  

SHREC's research will prioritize Vermont farmers' needs. “Farmers have a certain baseline level and knowledge,” said Joshua Faulkner, Research Associate Professor in Extension and a Co-Principal Investigator of SHREC. “But they're hungry to know more, especially about actionable information related to management.” 

This lab expands upon UVM’s Agricultural and Environmental Testing Lab, which runs routine soil nutrient analyses for farmers, researchers, and other stakeholders.  

Led by Neher, Faulkner, and UVM Extension Professor Heather Darby, SHREC will engage with farmers and agricultural providers across the state to provide applied research, outreach, and education. “We want this to be very informed and responsive to the needs of the region’s stakeholders so we're planning to form an advisory committee that involves farmers, extensionists, agency and conservation personnel, and some university folks to help guide our mission here at SHREC,” said Faulkner. 

SHREC will receive $650,000 in annual funding from UVM's Food Systems Research Center (FSRC), the first USDA-funded research center to study the interconnectedness of all parts of a regional food system, from farm practices to food access. 

The lab’s long-term funding will support the creation of new staff positions and an opportunity to update handling procedures and reporting. The center is currently acquiring new instrumentation, evaluating protocols, and establishing its business model. 

The first phase of the lab will be functional by fall 2024, but SHREC seeks to establish relationships with farmers and stakeholders now. 

“I'd love for people to start reaching out, asking questions, and start providing feedback that we can use as we develop this initiative,” said Faulkner. 

To connect with SHREC visit for contact information.