Sponsored By
indiana Prairie Farmer Logo

Expect Your Agronomist to Talk About Soil Health TestsExpect Your Agronomist to Talk About Soil Health Tests

Soil health is far more than a buzz word; now there is a test for it.

Tom Bechman 1

February 26, 2014

2 Min Read

Defining soil health is a bit like defining sustainable agriculture. It may mean different things to different people. Indiana is recognized as a leader in soil health nationally, largely because of several efforts to implement continuous no-till and cover crop systems to improve soil structure.

Typically, soil structure and organic matter content improve over time in reduced tillage and no-till systems. Tests taken for the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative as part of a grant program indicate that there are several pieces to soil health.


Lisa Holscher, based in Petersburg, is coordinator of training sites and 12 cooperating farmers who are using reduced tillage techniques and putting out plots each year for practices designed to improve soil health. Eileen Kladivko, a Purdue University agronomist, is in charge of the grant, and oversees testing for soil health.

Her tests break soil health into structure, soil fertility and total biological activity in the soil. Farmers who have practiced no-till for a long time tend to score well in soil structure and fairly well in soil fertility. Their scores are much lower in biological activity.

However, experts say that may be a function of the test and the scale used for comparison purposes. Obviously, no-till soils are higher in earthworms and typically in overall biological activity.

Related: Soil Testing Practices Vary Across Indiana

Danny Greene, Franklin, an Indiana Certified Crop Adviser and owner of Greene Ag Consulting, LLC., told farmers recently that he will offer to pull soil health tests for clients this year. Chad Wagler, who works with Greene, explains that the tests may become their basis for all available nitrogen rate sampling in 2014. Soil samples for soil health tests are kept moist and shipped to a lab.

"The soil health test tries to estimate the amount of nutrients that can be released from the soil," Greene says. "We're going to record where we pull soil health tests with an RTK-GPS unit on our ATV. Once we get results back, we can share them with customers and explain what the results mean."

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like