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Soil Health


The goal of the Soil Health Assessment in RI is to provide the landowner with an idea of  management changes that may be needed to improve the biological, chemical, and physical properties of your soil over time. We recommend using the Cornell Soil Health Assessment and that you perform the soil test in the same area every 3 years.

Cornell Soil Health Assessment

At the heart of soil health is the integration of soil physical, chemical and biological processes and functions. A healthy soil will be a balance of all three components. For years we have relied on inexpensive soil testing procedures to assess chemical properties, but methods for rapid assessment of the physical and biological status of the soil are not generally offered. The Cornell Soil Health Assessment can be used to evaluate and integrate these different processes and functions for the purpose of improving soil health.

Cornell Soil Health Assessment strives to identify and overcome the following limitations and problems:

  • Disease & pest pressure
  • Low organic matter content
  • Soil compaction
  • Drought-prone soils
  • Decreased infiltration
  • Excessive runoff Erosion
  • Reduced water holding capacity

The Cornell Soil Health Assessment will help you:

  • Choose the right method to increase Organic Matter (manure, compost, green manure, crop residue)
  • Choose the right Tillage Method (Deep Tillage, Reduced Tillage, Chisel plow, No-till, Zone Tillage)
  • Choose the right Crop Rotation
  • Manage soil limitations (aggregate stability, organic matter content, water holding capacity, pH, nutrients) Maximize reliance on natural, renewable and on-farm inputs.


Aggregate Stability is an indicator of soil structure. Soils with low aggregate stability are often low in organic matter and are prone to surface crusting and erosion. Low aggregate stability causes poor water infiltration and can inhibit proper seed germination and plant root growth.

Available Water Capacity reflects the amount of water the soil can store for plant use. It tends to be lower in sandier soils and when organic matter is low.

Surface and Subsurface Hardness is a measure of compaction in the surface layer (0-6 in.) and subsurface layer (6-18 in.). Root growth decreases as compaction increases, and most roots cannot penetrate the soil when readings are >300 psi.


Contact your local NRCS office to schedule dates for soil sampling.


Other Information

The National Soil Heath website

Soil Health Fact Sheet

Cover Crops and Soil Health

Cornell Soil Health Testing website


For more information please contact:

Eric Boettger,  Resource Conservationist- Warwick, RI