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Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

Soil Health Assessment


Soil health, or soil quality, is defined as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. Traditional views of soil quality often considered soils from the perspective of crop productivity and soil chemical properties, which generally led to an undervaluation of soil biological and physical processes. Soil health is a complex concept that requires a broader understanding of soil properties. It can be implemented through the comprehensive assessment of soil health (CASH) approach, which measures 15 physical, biological, and chemical soil indicators that can be linked to management recommendations. This chapter discusses all 15 tests, including the soil sampling and sample preparation methodologies. The methodology of the eight biological and physical tests is also covered in detail. These measures are interpreted through scoring functions that provide an overall soil health score. A comparison of indicator values between India, Colombia, and three US regions illustrates the need for scoring functions to be regionally adapted to production environments.

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