Soil Quality Test Kit Tony Ingersoll NRCS Tri-State Natural Resources Technology Team
Soil Quality is: • The capacity of a soil to function. • It is specific to each kind of soil, or soil series.
Reasons for Testing Soil Quality • To determine the existing quality of soils • To evaluate the effects of management practices on the soil • To determine changes in soil quality over time
Functions of Soil • Sustaining biological activity, diversity, and productivity. • Regulating and partitioning soil and water flow • Filtering and immobilizing organic and inorganic materials, including potential pollutants • Storing and cycling nutrients • Providing support for construction and agriculture.
Tests Used in the Soil Quality Test Kit • Soil Respiration • Infiltration • Bulk Density • Electrical Conductivity • Soil pH, Soil Nitrate • Aggregate Stability • Soil Slaking • Earthworms • Soil Physical Observations and Estimates
Why is Soil Respiration important? • It is a measure of the carbon dioxide being produced as a result of biological activity in the soil. • Microbiological activity in the soil is considered beneficial to crop health • Soil respiration is highly variable, depending on season and soil disturbance.
Why is Infiltration important? • Infiltration is a measurement of how quickly water enters the soil. • Infiltration can decrease if aggregates are disrupted, as is the case during tillage.
Why is Bulk Density Important? • Increases in Bulk Density may indicate increased soil compaction. • Compacted soils can restrict water infiltration, root growth, and reduce the air available in the soil.
Why is Electrical Conductivity Important • Electrical Conductivity measures the ions in soil. • This is used to measure the salt content of soils over time. • This test is most useful in soils which tend to salinity
Why is Soil pH important? • The pH of the soil affects the ability of the plant to uptake nutrients. • Soil pH may be modified by the use of soil additives such as lime or nitrogen containing fertilizers.
Why is Soil Nitrate Important? • Soil nitrate is essential for plant growth • When excess nitrates are present in the soil they can leach out of the soil and contaminate groundwater.
Why is Aggregate Stability Important? • The destruction of soil aggregates leads to loss of soil structure and potential erosion. • This test measures the resistance of the soil aggregates to running water.
Why is Soil Slaking Important? • This also tests the ability of the soil aggregates to withstand stress from water. • This test measures the stability of the soil in the face of rapid wetting of the soil fragments.
Why are Earthworms Important? • Earthworms improve soil quality by • increasing nutrient availability • decomposing organic material • enhancing soil porosity
Why are Soil Observations Important? • Soil development is a long term process. Only by observing changes in your soil over time will you be able to evaluate the effects of your soil practices.
Our Soil Kit Recommendations • After testing the soil kit, we have compiled a list of alternate sources for the materials used in the kit, as well as evaluating the tests in the kit.