Purdue University | Indiana CCA

Proceedings 2006

Indiana Certified Crop Adviser Conference


Assessment and Management of Soil Health

Soil health management addresses an integrative approach to the physical, biological and chemical functioning of soils. Lower crop productivity arising from poor soil health is an increasing concern among the farmers in the USA. Processes that cause such losses include soil compaction, erosion, loss of organic matter from intensive tillage, and lack of soil building practices such as cover cropping and organic matter additions. We will discuss the various processes that affect soil health and management approaches that address such concerns. There is increased demand by growers for assistance in determining the health status of soils and developing guidelines for more sustainable and practical soil management alternatives. As part of the Cornell Soil Health Initiative, we have developed a set of procedures that allow for inexpensive evaluation of key soil health indicators (physical, biological and chemical). With the so-called Tier-1 assessment procedure, samples are collected from the field, combined with a few in-field measurements. The samples are analyzed in a new soil health testing facility for key indicators. These were selected based on an extensive research program that evaluated 32 potential indicators. Selection criteria included ease of sampling, cost of analysis, response to management, and functional relevance. Soil health reports and management recommendations are generated from the analyses. This allows farmers to test the health of their soils, target their management, and monitor soil health improvement over time.


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van EsHarold van Es
Professor of Soil and Water
Cornell University

Dr. van Es is a Professor of Soil and Water Management at Cornell University, holding a position in extension, research and teaching in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. He is a native of the Netherlands and received degrees from North Carolina State University (Ph.D.), Iowa State University (M.S.), and the University of Amsterdam (B.S.). He directs the Cornell Computational Agriculture Initiative, serves as Director of Graduate Studies, and teaches courses in Soil and Water Management and Applications of Space-Time Statistics. He published over 60 refereed scientific journal articles and co-authored a book titled Building Soils for Better Crops. Dr. van Es’ research focuses on soil health, precision management of crop inputs (esp. nitrogen) , and soil statistics.