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Soil Health

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Soil Health relates to the fitness of a specific kind of soil to function within its surroundings, support plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and support human health and habitation. Soil health, or quality, is the capacity of a soil to function. How well is your soil functioning? Does it infiltrate water and cycle nutrients to water and feed growing plants? Soil is a living factory of macroscopic and microscopic workers who need food to eat and places to live to do their work. There are more individual organisms in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on earth; thus, the soil is controlled by these organisms.


multi species cover crop: vetch, rye, radish, partridge pea

Cover Crops for Soil Quality Improvement

  • Healthy Soils, Healthy Crops Video Series - a series of ten videos that focus on soil health and some of the conservation practices (e.g., cover crops, residue management, crop rotation) that improve soil health. Information on activities (e.g., nutrient and pest management) that benefit from improved soil health and precision agriculture are highlighted as well. The project was a collaboration between USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service in South Carolina and the Earth Sciences and Resources Institute-University of South Carolina (USC-ESRI).
  • Cover Crops for Vegetable Growers in the Northeast (Cornell University) - 1.4MB PDF
  • Cover Crop Decision Tool - online tool

Soil Biology

Soil Biology Primer Cover graphic
  • National NRCS Soil Biology site
  • Soil Biology Primer (printed version shown at left available for sale from SWCS) - The Soil Biology Primer is an introduction to the living component of soil and how that component contributes to agricultural productivity and to air and water quality. The Primer includes information describing the soil food web and how the food web relates to soil health. There are chapters about bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, and earthworms. 

NRCS Soil Health Resources and Publications

NJ Soil Health Fact Sheets

Fact Sheets produced as a joint effort between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service NJ and the Ocean County Soil Conservation District.

New Jersey Soil Health Assessment Guide

NJ Soil Health Assessment Guide coverNJ Soil Health Assessment Guide is offered as a tool for homeowners and gardeners to assist in assessing the health of their soil. Managed carefully, healthy soils support local communities through encouraging plant and animal production and sustaining water resources for future generations. Basically a healthy soil surface would consist of about half mineral and organic matter, and half pore spaces filled with water and air. Completing this self-assessed guide will enable you to provide background information about the condition of your soil.  It will serve to assist you in determining what you can do to sustain these important soil functions, and how you can assist in helping sustain all life above and below the surface.

This guide is available to download from the Ocean County Soil Conservation District's Healthy Soil Resources page in two formats:

  • NJ Soil Health Assessment Guide
  • NJ Soil Health Assessment Guide (Online Interactive Version)

National Soils Information from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Soil Testing Resources


For more on Soil Health contact: Kaitlin Farbotnik, Conservation Agronomist, 732-537-6053. 


updated September 13, 2016