North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements
Soil health is the foundation for productive and regenerative agricultural systems. Farming practices that improve soil health can increase farm profitability and mitigate the effects of climate change while protecting and restoring natural resources for communities and families. However, lack of widely applicable measurements and methods for assessing soil health are significant barriers to adopting soil health practices and systems.
This project will help the industry adopt standardized measurements to evaluate and improve soil health while expanding education and tools for local farmers, agronomists, and landowners. By project conclusion, the Soil Health Institute will recommend an answer to the fundamental question: How can we consistently measure and monitor soil health at scale?
A major goal for this project is to assess the ability of over 30 soil health indicators to detect differences in soil health indicators that have been managed in different ways for at least 10 years.
The Institute convened a “blue ribbon panel” of experts from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), several universities, and the private sector to develop consensus on how each indicator should be measured.
A peer-reviewed publication has documented the overall design, and methods employed to identify soil health indicators that are sensitive across agricultural management practices, soil types, and geographies.
Soil health indicators assessed
Research sites measured
of all samples collected in spring 2019
Many papers are in review and as they are published, they will be added here.
Introducing the North American project to evaluate soil health measurements
Carbon-sensitive pedotransfer functions for plant available water
Linking soil microbial community structure to potential carbon mineralization: A continental scale assessment of reduced tillage
An evaluation of carbon indicators of soil health in long-term agricultural experiments
Selecting soil hydraulic properties as indicators of soil health: Measurement response to management and site characteristics
Not interested in reading peer review papers? Here we distill the papers to key findings and interesting facts (in less than 500 words!).
Fighting Climate Change by Building Soil Carbon Also Gives Farmers More Water to Grow Crops
Soil Hydraulic Properties for Measuring Soil Health
Standard Measurement Methods
Here we share laboratory SOPs (Standard Operation Procedures) that SHI uses to communicate needs with commercial soil testing labs.
Soil Health Sampling Standard Operating Procedure
Soil Total Carbon and Nitrogen by Dry Combustion Standard Operating Procedure
Soil Inorganic Carbon by Modified Pressure Calcimeter Standard Operating Procedure
Wet Aggregate Stability by Image Quantification Standard Operating Procedure
Potential Carbon Mineralization Standard Operating Procedure
Particle Size Analysis by Hydrometer Standard Operating Procedure
Details on the 30+ Soil Health Indicators
In addition to these specific indicators, the Soil Health Institute is also evaluating three soil health evaluation frameworks; namely, the Soil Health Management Assessment Framework (Andrews et al., 2004), Cornell’s Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health (Moebius-Clune et al., 2016), and the “Haney test” (Haney et al., 2010).
Tier 1 Soil Health Indicators to be Assessed
Tier 2 Soil Health Indicators to be Assessed
SHI thanks the following for their input in deliberations on soil health indicator analytical methods:
Veronica Acosta-Martinez – USDA Agricultural Research Service
Alan Franzluebbers – USDA Agricultural Research Service
Doug Karlen – USDA Agricultural Research Service
David Knaebel – USDA Agricultural Research Service
Dan Manter – USDA Agricultural Research Service
Jennifer Moore-Kucera – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
David Myrold – Oregon State University
Bob Schindelbeck – Cornell University
Kristen Veum – USDA Agricultural Research Service
Fred Vocasek – ServiTech Labs
SHI Team: Sean Bloszies, Wayne Honeycutt, Sheldon Jones, Byron Rath, Steven Shafer, and Paul Tracy
This project is made possible through the generous support of General Mills, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.