Healthy soil has more organic matter, greater pore space and better water holding capacity.
AgSource’s Soil Health Assessment combines the chemical and physical results of traditional soil testing with biological assessments of microbial activity to provide a measure of the quality of the soil.
Higher Score = Healthier Soil
Improving soil health is a long term process that will build up the ability of the soil to sustain crops from season to season and year to year. Increasing organic matter improves structure and nutrient cycling because of greater microbial activity. Improved structure helps to retain plant available water for longer periods between rains. Both of these will benefit crops by mitigating against variability of water and nutrient supply during the growing season. That could impact profits through reduced fertilizer inputs or better growth during hot summer weather.
All Soil Health samples are analyzed for the following: Soil pH, Buffer pH, Excess Carbonate, Soluble Salt, Organic Matter, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Sodium, Nitrate, Sulfur, Zinc, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Boron, Calculated CEC and % of Base Saturation.
Basic Package….$45 – includes: Soil Health Score, CO2 Respiration, C:N Ratio.
Routine Package….$55 – includes: Soil Health Score, CO2 Respiration, C:N Ratio, plus
Complete Package….$65 – includes: Soil Health Score, CO2 Respiration, C:N Ratio, plus
A soil health test provides a reference point to use when evaluating the current quality of your soil and the impact of any steps that are taken to improve that quality.
Soil health testing focuses on measuring the potential rate of biological activity and the levels of carbon and nitrogen available to organisms in the soil. A soil health test score provides a number related to these characteristics, with a higher number indicating a more healthy soil.
A typical first-step recommendation to improve soil health is to grow a cover crop. This will help to retain nutrients, enable vigorous soil microbial growth throughout the year and will build soil organic matter content. Other beneficial practices include:
Anything that builds organic matter and maintains a readily decomposable nutrient source for an active microbial population in the soil will improve soil health. This in turn will enhance the overall quality of the soil, maximizing the productive capacity of the land.
The cover crop recommendations in the report are formulated to meet two objectives: to provide the soil with easily decomposable plant biomass for better health and to retain the nutrients that are still present in the soil after crop harvest. In addition to planting cover crops, other management practices that can help improve soil health include reducing tillage, extending rotations and diversifying your cover crop mixture.
The NRCS defines soil health as “The continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans.”
But what exactly does that mean? Let’s start by looking at the three components of soil: physical, chemical and biological.