What is Soil Health?
Soil health is the combination of physical, chemical, and biological factors that allow soil to sustainably function to support plants, animals, and humans.
According to the NRCS, the principles of soil heath include:
- Maximizing the presence of living roots
- Minimizing disturbance
- Maximizing soil cover
- Maximizing biodiversity
These soil health principles have benefits for crop production, including increased water holding capacity, improved water infiltration and soil permeability, increased resistance to many plant diseases, reduced erosion and runoff and increased stress tolerance. Additional benefits include increased carbon sequestration, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved pollinator habitat.
Soil health assessments have been developed to track the effects of soil health principles. Interpretation of soil health measurements can be challenging as more research is still needed in this area. However, looking at changes in soil health parameters over time can help determine whether growers are improving soil health with the implementation of soil health management principles.
Dellavalle Laboratory offers sampling, soil analysis and consulting for two soil health assessments:
Please reach out to your local Dellavalle Laboratory consultant for questions about these and other soil health assessments.
Soil Health Assessments
Soil Health Institute (SHI)
The Soil Health Institute (STI) has analyzed over 30 different laboratory methods that are related to soil health. After much research and review they recommend three methods to analyze soil health. These methods and the related soil functions include:
- Soil Organic Carbon Concentration- A measure of the non-living organic material in soil.
- Carbon Mineralization Potential-A measure of how much CO2 is released from soil, as a proxy for microbial activity.
- Aggregate Stability- A measure of dry soil aggregate’s ability to resist dispersion once rewetted.
In addition, Dellavalle Laboratory is adding total nitrogen and soil C:N ratio to the SHI package at no additional cost.
To sample, collect 12-15 composite soil samples from 0-6” depth and place in a soil sampling bag. Sampling should be conducted based on field or management units not to exceed ~80 acres. Management units should have the same fertilization, irrigation, amendment and general management practices. Request the package “SHI” and submit the composite sample to the laboratory as soon as possible.
Click here for more information on the methods chosen.
Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC)
The ROC assessment includes both laboratory methods and in-field assessments. The in-field assessment includes tests for: compaction, crusting, diversity of microlife, ground cover, ponding, plant health, root growth, aggregate stability, and soil color and smell. DLI staff have been specifically trained to conduct these in-field assessments.
The packages below include required laboratory tests.
SH2:TN, TOC, OM, C:N ratio, bulk density, EC and pH. The SH2 package includes all required indicators for Regenerative Organic Certified (when soil texture is added in the first year).
SH3: TN, TOC, OM, C:N ratio, bulk density, SP, pHs, ECe, Ca, Mg, Na, ESP, B, GR or LR (buffer pH), NO3-N, PO4-P, K, Zn, plus DTPA extractable Mn, Fe, Cu and ammonium acetate extractable Ca, Mg, Na, expressed as meq/100 g and percentage of estimated CEC plus Al and H if needed. This package consists of all required and several recommended tests for Regenerative Organic Certification
Note: Bulk Density requires collecting in a bulk density sample cylinder