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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 #360245

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: Soil health assessment: Past accomplishments, current activities, and future opportunities

item Karlen, Douglas
item Veum, Kristen
item Sudduth, Kenneth - Ken
item OBRYCKI, JOHN - Boston Children'S Hospital
item NUNES, MARCIO - Orise Fellow

Submitted to: Soil & Tillage Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/6/2019
Publication Date: 12/1/2019
Citation: Karlen, D.L., Veum, K.S., Sudduth, K.A., Obrycki, J.F., Nunes, M.R. 2019. Soil health assessment: Past accomplishments, current activities, and future opportunities. Soil & Tillage Research. 195(104356).

Interpretive Summary: Public interest in and private investment for evaluating soil health have increased rapidly in the past five years. This manuscript summarizes how the soil health concept originated, reviews current activities being conducted to advance the science-base for soil health assessment, and identifies future areas of soil science research that could greatly enhance the scientific base and utility of soil health assessment. Planning strategies for national assessments by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Soil Health Division (SHD) and the Soil Health Institute (SHI) are summarized. New technologies focused on soil biology, soil data interpretation, and enhanced in-field measurements are discussed. This information will be of interest to scientists, policy makers, producers and students.

Technical Abstract: Global interest in soil health has increased exponentially during the past decade, with many different government, non-government, and private sector groups striving to develop monitoring and assessment protocols. Our objectives are to provide a brief overview of how soil health concepts have evolved and project what is needed to scientifically advance monitoring and assessment. Recommended activities include improving the Soil Management Assessment Framework (SMAF) and/or Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health (CASH) assessment tools, developing protocols for national soil health monitoring, identifying and calibrating better indicators of soil biological, chemical, and physical health, and developing sensors and other tools for more rapid and in-situ assessments. Collectively, these and other research and technology transfer activities will help achieve what we suggest should be a universal goal – striving for healthy soils, healthy landscapes, and vibrant economies.