Soil Health Monitoring

Soil health is a phrase that describes the physical, chemical, and biological functions of soils in the context of production agriculture. Certain agricultural practices (like no-till, cover cropping, and managed stock grazing) have been scientifically proven to improve the function of agricultural soils. Over the past two decades or so, the concept of “soil health” and its associate practices have become increasingly accepted across the North American agriculture sector.

However, if practices are adopted with the goal of improving soil health, it is also important to accurately measure how these practices are changing soil properties. Some soil properties can respond to agricultural practice changes in just one year (e.g. active carbon). Others can take 5 years or more (e.g. SOM, SOC). Additionally, soil sampling should be conducted in a spatially representative manner.

The following resources provide information on key soil health measurements and developing spatially-informed soil sampling methods:

Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health – The Cornell Framework
Soil Sampling Strategies – MSU Extension

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