Soil health has been defined as “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living system, within ecosystem and land-use boundaries, to sustain biological productivity, maintain the quality of air and water environments, and promote plant, animal, and human health”. The challenge with this poetic definition is that, while it does describe the functional abilities of soil, it does not provide quantifiable values or measurements. There are no metrics to determine what makes soil healthy or to help identify the current soil health status (i.e. is it healthy or does it still need work?).
Although most producers can agree that soil health is important, actual measurable values of what makes soil “healthy” will vary from farm to farm. Numerous research projects across the globe are working on gaining a better understanding of soil health and what that means for individual operations but have yet to come up with specific, global parameters other than the definition provided in 1996. This challenge makes sense – consider Canada for instance. Values for pH, salinity, water infiltration, and organic matter vary significantly across the country and what is considered “good” in one area may not be considered valuable in another region. Continue reading