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Dynamic Soil Properties for Soil Health – #DSP4SH

Researchers evaluate surface conditions in a no-till corn field in northwest Kansas.Science of Soil Health Initiative

Soil health has become an increasingly important area of emphasis in land management, particularly agricultural land management, within NRCS, in the larger scientific community, and with the general public. As interest in soil health management continues to increase, so does the need for consistent, replicable, scientifically sound indicators, associated data, and interpretations that will allow for the assessment and monitoring of how agricultural management practices are affecting soil health. The Science of Soil Health Initiative seeks to gather, process, and disseminate scientifically rigorous data for these purposes.

Dynamic Soil Properties for Soil Health – #DSP4SH

Through the Science of Soil Health initiative, cooperators are collecting dynamic soil properties (DSPs). A common set of soil health metrics will be collected across regions and soils and linking the information gathered to soil survey DSP databases and products.

A rancher's sample graph.


Soil Health Process Indicator/Property
Soil Structural Stability Infiltration, Aggregate Stability
Organic Matter Cycling & C Sequestration Soil Orgainc Carbon
General Microbial Activity Soil Respiration, Soil Enzymes
Carbon Food Source Active Carbon (Permanganate Oxidizable Carbon, POXC)
Bioavailable Nitrogen Available Organic Nitrogen
Microbial Community Composition Community Structure (PLFA)

Method Sources

Stott, D.E. 2019. Recommended Soil Health Indicators and Associated Laboratory Procedures. Soil Health Technical Note No. 450-03. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Soil Survey Staff. 2014. Soil Survey Field and Laboratory Methods Manual. Soil Survey Investigations Report No. 51, Version 2.0. R. Burt and Soil Survey Staff (ed.). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Cooperating Institutions

U.S. map showing locations of cooperating institutions.

Alabama A&M Univ.
• Deidrick Davis

Chico State Univ.
• Garret Liles

Kansas State Univ.
• Savanna Crossman
• Laura Starr
• Peter Tomlinson
• DeAnn Presley
• Charles Rice

North Carolina State Univ.
• Caitlin Caudle
• Deanna Osmond
• Josh Heitman

Oregon State Univ.
• Regina O’Kelley
• David Myrold

Texas A&M Agrilife Research
• Katie Lewis
• Paul DeLuane

Univ. of Arizona
• Joseph Blankinship
• Kirsten Ball

Univ. of Connecticut
• Huijie Gan
• Carl Gulliard

Univ. of Hawaii
• Susan Crow
• Elain Vizka
• Jonathon Deenik

Univ. of Illinois
• Carmen Ugarte

Univ. of Maryland Eastern Shore
• Aurthur Allen
• Amy Collick
• Fawzy Hashem

Univ. of Minnesota
• Sharron Peron
• Julie Grossman

Univ. of Missouri
• Donna Brandt
• Kristen Veum (ARS)

Univ. of North Dakota
• Brian Darby

Univ. of Texas – Rio Grande Valley
• Alex Racelis
• Stephanie Kasper
• Luzyannet Ballesteros

Univ. of Wisconsin
• Laura Adams
• Francisco Arriaga

Washington State Univ.
• Issac Madsen
• Katherine Naasko
• Haying Tao
• Bill Pan

Expected Outcomes

  • Chico State University (CA) graduate student marks genetic soil horizons.List of relevant DSPs and reference values that can be used to assess soil health status by soils under different management systems
  • Data (measurements) and information (interpretations) for a standard set of DSPs on one or more benchmark soils and soil landscapes to be included in national soil and ecological site databases maintained by NRCS
  • Recommendations for conservation planning and conservation effects assessment 

Current Output

  • Presentations/Prelim results

Preliminary Results Summary

  • Methods require further standardization before they are appropriate for commercialization across regions and soils
  • Impact of soil health management varies by soil and institution
    • Climate, texture and crops grown influences management effects
  • Perennial vegetation had significant and meaningfully better values for all properties evaluated thus far
  • Differences between crop management systems are limited and applicable only within individual soils evaluated

Initial Analysis of Samples sent to KSSL for the upper approximately 3 inches of soil across all institutions.

Virtual Symposium

Link to the Virtual Symposium

  • Provides a brief summary of each presentations
  • Provides links to individual presentations and posters
  • Will host overarching Q&A

Cores taken to evaluate a pasture soil at a North Carolina State University research and demonstration farm. Munsell color was determined for each layer to link soil health indicators to observations made by soil survey.