Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Columbia, Missouri » Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #363178

Research Project: Sustainable Intensification of Cropping Systems on Spatially Variable Landscapes and Soils

Location: Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research

Title: Dynamic soil properties for soil health assessment: coordinating a national project

item WILLS, SKYE - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item Veum, Kristen
item UGARTE, CARMEN - University Of Illinois

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/30/2019
Publication Date: 8/27/2019
Citation: Wills, S.A., Veum, K.S., Ugarte, C.M. 2019. Dynamic soil properties for soil health assessment: coordinating a national project [abstract]. Wageningen Soil Conference 2019, August 27-30, 2019, Wageningen, the Netherlands. P. 70.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Interest in soil health indicators as a tool for land management continues to expand within government agencies, the larger scientific community, and with the public. Producers and managers look to compare management practices and track changes over time with both quantitative and qualitative field and laboratory metrics. However, guidelines and publicly accessible tools are not widely available for soil health assessment as they are for traditional soil fertility measures like phosphorus and nitrogen. The NRCS soil survey provides limited interpretations of soil properties as they relate to soil health but does not provide references or benchmarks for most soil health metrics. The Soil Management Assessment Framework (SMAF) uses inherent soil properties, such as soil texture or mineralogy class, to standardize selected laboratory soil health indicators as part of the scoring process. Likewise, the Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health has implemented simplified SMAF scoring curves to communicate laboratory results to producers and managers. Concurrent efforts by multiple institutions and agencies across the United States recommend different sets of laboratory methods and standardized procedures. To bridge soil health assessment and soil survey products, the Soil and Plant Science Division of NRCS is coordinating a project called Dynamic Soil Properties for Soil Health Assessment as part of a broader Science of Soil Health Initiative. The project consists of nine individual cooperative agreements with common protocols and procedures. The primary objective of the project is to assess the accuracy, repeatability, and utility of a standard set of proposed soil health metrics. This project encompasses a range of geographic regions and focuses on locally important soils and land management systems. A secondary objective is to link benchmark and reference soil health indicator values to soils and soil survey. Results to date, including challenges with the study design, standardization of laboratory protocols, and database development will be discussed. The initial products will include individual cooperator reports and publications, an overarching publicly available dataset, and a statistical meta-analysis. Ultimately, the data will be incorporated into soil survey products and the information will enhance soil health management recommendations within NRCS and in the wider agricultural community and support continued NRCS involvement in this area.