Published on Feb 25, 2019
Soil science courses, forty years ago, left students with the notion of soil as an inert substrate, hosting little more than chemical reactions, into which roots of our preferred crops are anchored. Kris Nichols is amongst a vanguard of soil scientists who have more recently revealed the myriad biological life forms underfoot. She argues for a whole systems approach to regenerate our soils, in which macro and microscopic organisms – from humans to bacteria, grazing animals to fungi, and insects to amoeba – are cycling energy and resources. She will not shy from criticizing organic practices that detract from this whole.
Raised on a Minnesota farm, Kris Nichols earned her Ph.D. in Soil Science from the University of Maryland in 2003, and served as Research Soil Microbiologist with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service for a decade, focusing her investigations on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Dr. Nichols has since served as Chief Scientist at Rodale Institute where she oversaw research trials on organic agriculture, including their Farming Systems Trial, the longest-running U.S. study comparing conventional agriculture with organic methods. She is the founder and principal scientist of KRIS Systems Education & Consultation, where she builds upon a soil health foundation to identify biological methods for agricultural production.