Soil Quality Assessment
Soil quality is an assessment of how well soil performs all of its functions now and how those functions are being preserved for future use. There are a variety of tools that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can use to evaluate soil quality.
Guidelines for Soil Quality Assessment in Conservation Planning, prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), describes a step-by step process for assessing soil quality. It provides guidance to decide whether to conduct an elaborate or simple assessment, which tools to use, and what management practices to use to address soil quality concerns.
Soil Quality/Health Test Kits are used to compare soils under different land management systems, track changes in soil quality over time, and demonstrate the effects of management practices on soil quality. NRCS provides guidance on how to conduct field procedures to evaluate or indicate the level of the following soil indicators:
Soil Quality/Health Cards are qualitative field assessment tools to help the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and others inventory and assess resources, evaluate planning alternatives, and monitor management effectiveness over time. They are also educational tools to initiate discussions about soil quality and soil management.
Example of Soil Quality Health Card — Numerical Rankings 1–10
|Soil Structure||Cloddy, powdery, massive, flakey||Friable, loose, crumbly|
|Free of Compactive Layers/Roots||Hardpans, roots turned, difficulty for wire flag penetration, poor root distribution||Ease for wire flag penetration, good root distribution|
|Soil Organisms (earthworms, critters)||Absent||Visible/full variety|
|Plant Residue Presence||None or too much not decomposing||Full decomposition|
|Plant Health||Stunted growth, discolored||Vigorous, uniform growth|
|Water Infiltration||Water on surface for long time||Adequate drainage and lack of ponding|
|Bare ground||Considerable||Cover of plants and residues of soil/site|
|Aggregate Stability||Does not hold together well as a result of wind, rain, compaction||Holds together well as a result of wind, rain, compaction|