Measuring Soil Health

Every NRCS office in Iowa has a Soil Health Bucket that has simple equipment to test different aspects of soil health.  Some of the tests include bulk density, a visual estimate of soil organic matter, soil respiration using a Solvita test kit, pH, soil nitrogen, soil phosphorus, infiltration, and compaction.  The information that these tests provide is not as detailed as lab tests, but give quick and easy estimates of the different parameters.  Many of the tests utilize test strips or equipment that give results while in the field.  A few of the tests require that soil samples be taken back to the office for further processing or analysis.

If any producer or landowner would like NRCS/SWCD staff to visit their farm and use the Soil Health tools to assess the different aspects of soil health, please let us know.  This is not meant to replace soil sampling for nutrient application and is not sufficient to meet CSP guidelines.  This is meant to provide basic information.  One useful comparison using these tools may be no-till versus reduced tillage or a comparison of a field that has a cover crop to one that does not.

Please contact the office if you would like to learn more about these soil health tests by calling 563-568-2246 ext. 3 or stopping by 635 9th St. NW between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.