Soil quality field tools: Experiences of USDA-NRCS Soil Quality Institute

TitleSoil quality field tools: Experiences of USDA-NRCS Soil Quality Institute
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsDitzler C., Tugel A.J.
JournalAgronomy Journal
Date Published2002
ARIS Log Number142829
Keywordsassessment tools, field tools, NRCS, soil quality, Soil Quality Institute

The mission of the Soil Quality Institute (SQI) of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is to develop and disseminate tools for soil quality assessment. In keeping with this mission, the SQI, through partnerships, has developed two assessment tools for use by farmers and field staff. We review these efforts here. The first, the Soil Quality Card Design Guide, provides a nine-step process for conducting workshops to guide farmers in developing locally adapted soil quality assessment cards. The second, the Soil Quality Test Kit Guide, provides instructions and interpretations for 11 field tests representing physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil. In this paper, we present a summary of soil quality cards developed in seven states. An important strength of the soil quality card design process lies with the active participation of farmers to design the cards themselves as part of locally led conservation activities. We also present results from soil quality test kit training workshops showing that the test kit provides an excellent framework for teaching soil quality concepts in the field. Regular use to compare effects of management systems or monitor changes over time will likely be limited to farmers with fairly high skill levels, specialists, and agricultural consultants.