Soil Health News: Practical Recommendations for Measuring Soil Health  

Soil Health News

In collaboration with over 100 scientists across 124 agricultural research sites in Canada, the US, and Mexico, the Soil Health Institute (SHI) outlined a practical suite of 3 soil health indicators for land managers. After evaluation of 30 different factors, they recommended the following three as a minimum, based on cost, practicality, and effectiveness. 

Organic C Concentration

An essential measure reflecting non-living organic material in the soil, and important to soil structure, microbial activity, and nutrient availability. The study outlines laboratory techniques for analyzing soil C, with consideration for inorganic C in certain regions. 

Carbon Mineralization Potential

A cost-effective indicator reflecting microbial activity by measuring CO2 release during soil processes, linked to carbon and nutrient cycling. 

Aggregate Stability

Vital for soil structure, this indicator assesses a soil’s resistance to dispersion when rewetted, correlating with erosion resistance and improved water-related processes.

Water Holding Capacity Recommendations

Additionally, SHI addresses the challenge of measuring plant available water holding capacity, crucial for drought resilience. While measuring this directly on intact soil cores is labor-intensive and not widely available, SHI scientists have developed equations using soil organic carbon, sand, and clay to predict changes in available water holding capacity, providing a more accessible solution.

You can review the SHI documentation: Recommended Measurements for Scaling Soil Health Analysis for additional information.  You can download their PDF here.