The terms soil health and soil quality are becoming increasingly familiar worldwide. Doran & Parkin (1994) defined soil quality as “the capacity of a soil to function, within ecosystem and land use boundaries, to sustain productivity, maintain environmental quality, and promote plant and animal health.” The three characteristics of soil health are physical, chemical and biological:
Physical soil health refers to the friability and hardness of the soil. A physically healthy soil does not have hard pans or hard setting surfaces. It holds water well, drains well and does not restrict root growth. You can assess physical health in the field using a spade; there also are a range of measurements that can be taken in the field or laboratory.
Soil health can be assessed by conducting a laboratory soil test using a range of physical, chemical and biological indicators. To get your soil assessed please contact our offices for more details.
Understanding soil health means assessing and managing soil so that it functions optimally now and is not degraded for future use. Soil works for you if you work for the soil by using management practices that improve soil health and increase productivity and profitability immediately and into the future. A fully functioning soil produces the maximum amount of products at the least cost therefore maximizing soil health is essential to maximizing profitability.
Biological soil health refers to soil life. A healthy soil has more soil organisms than an unhealthy soil of the same type. Crop residues break down more easily and the chemical and physical health is better. You can assess biological health in the field by checking for organisms and comparing the smell and feel of the soil. A high organic matter or carbon content for your soil type usually means a healthy soil.
Chemical soil health means that nutrients are in balance and available to the crop, the acidity/alkalinity is in the desired range and there are no problems with salinity or sodicity. Chemical soil health can be measured by conducting a soil test.
Page Content Source: VIDP (2013). Soil Health.
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Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries
Government of Jamaica