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Soil Quality Test Kit

soil quality test kit componentsThe Soil Quality Test Kit Guide describes procedures for 12 on-farm tests, an interpretive section for each test, data recording sheets, and a section on how to build your own kit. The NRCS does not build or sell soil quality test kits.

For an abbreviated and economical build-your-own Soil Quality Test Bucket and associated Soil Quality Kit - Guides for Educators, visit Soil Quality for Educators.

(Disclaimer: Trade names are used solely to provide specific information. Mention of a trade name does not constitute a guarantee of the product by the U.S. Department of Agriculture nor does it imply endorsement by the Department or the Natural Resources Conservation Service over comparable products that are not named.)

Soil Quality Test Kit Guide

Soil Quality Test Kit Guide by the Chapter

  • Cover (PDF, 120KB) - Includes the table of contents, acknowledgements, and preface

Section I - Test Procedures

Section I contains step-by-step instructions for running each of the tests included in the Soil Quality Test Kit. It is fully illustrated with photos to show the procedures and equipment needed to complete each step. Appendix D includes instructions for building a test kit.

Section II - Background and Interpretive Guide

Section II describes the background of the tests and provides guidance on interpreting test results.


Precision and Accuracy of Soil Quality Kit Tests
  • Liebig, M.A., J.W. Doran, and J.C. Gardner. 1996. Evaluation of a field test kit for measuring selected soil quality indicators. Agron. J. 88:683-686.
  • Seybold, C.A. and J.E. Herrick. 2001. Aggregate stability kit for soil quality assessments. Catena 44(1):37-45.
  • Herrick, J.E., W.G. Whitford, A.G. de Soyza, J.W. Van Zee, K.M. Havstad, C.A. Seybold, M. Walton. 2001. Soil aggregate stability kit for field-based soil quality and rangeland health evaluations. Catena 44(1):27-35.
  • Hubbs, M.D., D.W. Reeves, and C.C. Mitchell Jr. 1998. Measuring soil quality on the ‘old rotation’. p. 50-54. In: T.C. Keisling (ed.) Proceedings of the 21st Annual Southern Conservation Tillage Conference for Sustainable Agriculture. July 15-17, 1998. North Little Rock, Arkansas. Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, Fayeeteville, Arkansas.
  • Evanylo, G and R. McGuinn. 2000. Agricultural management practices and soil quality: Measuring, assessing, and comparing laboratory and field test kit indicators of soil quality attributes.
Use of Soil Quality Test Kit
  • Cramer, C. 1994. Test your soils’ health. The New Farm. Part 1 16:17-21. Part 2 16:40-45. Part 3 16:46-45.
  • Hubbs, M.D., C.A. Seybold, and D.D. Tylor. 2000. Effects of cotton tillage systems on soil quality using on-farm tests. Proceedings of the Beltwide Cotton Conference. Volume 1:45-47. National Cotton Council, Memphis, TN.
  • Sarrantonio, M., J.W. Doran, M.A. Liebig, and J.J. Halvorson. 1996. On-farm assessment of soil quality and health. p.83-106. In: J.W. Doran and A.J. Jones (eds.) Methods for assessing soil quality. SSSA Spec. Publ. 49.
  • Seybold, C.A., R.P. Dick, and F.J. Pierce. 2001. USDA soil quality test kit: Approaches for comparative assessments. Soil Survey Horizons 42(2):43-52.
  • Seybold, C., M. Hubbs, and D. Tylor. 2001. On-Farm Tests Indicate Effects of Long-Term Tillage Systems on Soil Quality. J. Sustainable Agric. 19(4):61-74.