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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Soil, Water & Air Resources Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #337904

Research Project: Managing Carbon and Nutrients in Midwestern U.S. Agroecosystems for Enhanced Soil Health and Environmental Quality

Location: Soil, Water & Air Resources Research

Title: On-farm soil health evaluations: Challenges and opportunities

item Karlen, Douglas
item GOESER, NICHOLAS - National Corn Growers Association
item Veum, Kristen
item Yost, Matt

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation Society
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/14/2017
Publication Date: 3/1/2017
Publication URL:
Citation: Karlen, D.L., Goeser, N., Veum, K.S., Yost, M.A. 2017. On-farm soil health evaluations: Challenges and opportunities. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation Society. 72(2):26A-31A. doi: 10.2489/jswc.72.2.26A.

Interpretive Summary: Public interest in soil health has increased exponentially during the past five years and resulted in several different groups seeking to quantify how various management practices are affecting our soils. The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is one of these groups and they have established an effective research and demonstration approach that is providing meaningful soil health assessment information. This manuscript outlines important lessons learned during the first three years of the SHP. The information will be useful to research, conservation, producer, technology transfer, and policy personnel in federal, state, and local governments as well as non-government organizations seeking to protect our soil resources.

Technical Abstract: Interest in soil health (or soil quality) by producers, conservationists, environmentalists, agricultural scientists, policy makers and many other groups has increased exponentially during the past five years. Yet the question remains: Can soil health be measured at the field or farm scale and can that data be used to improve land management decisions and thus help protect, conserve, and restore our fragile soil resources? Our opinion based on three years of experience through the Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is that the answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes! Recognizing that several other public and private groups are now expressing interest in assessing soil health, our goals are to: (1) summarize several of the SHP lessons learned during the past three years, (2) provide guidelines for future on-farm soil health studies, and (3) share some of our preliminary soil health assessment findings.