Soil health seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. We read stories about it, agencies are funding research and education about the topic, experts are giving presentations, scientists are conducting experiments and agronomists and farmers are being trained on it.
Many farmers have switched to no-till and are seeding cover crops to improve soil quality and farm more sustainably.
But when it comes to truly assessing the health of fields, there is no quick way to do it — and I don’t always feel farmers spend enough time examining this.
Nothing takes the place of doing an assessment in the field and getting your hands dirty. There’s a lot you can learn by just walking, digging and feeling.
There are a number of tests you can do in the field to assess the health and quality of your soil.
You can assemble equipment and kits to take measurements inexpensively and not depend on collecting and shipping soil samples to a laboratory.
To make results meaningful, compare a number of fields with different histories or environments, and don’t forget to pull a sample from an undisturbed soil from under a fencerow. That is especially revealing.
When measuring soil health, parameters most commonly assessed are in the biological, chemical and physical categories.
If you have time and interest, you can assess all or a few of these. And if you’re already pulling soil samples and running soil tests, some of this information will already be available in the…