Soil condition can be defined as the capacity of a soil to function, within land use and ecosystem boundaries, to sustain biological productivity, maintain environmental health, and promote plant, animal, and human health.
Monitoring soil health
Soil health can be defined as the capacity of a soil to function, within land use and ecosystem boundaries, to sustain biological productivity, maintain environmental health, and promote plant, animal, and human health.
Soil characteristics vary depending on where and how the soil has been formed.
Different characteristics are needed for different land uses. For example, soils that are good for growing potatoes are not necessarily good for dairy pasture. Soil is also dynamic, always evolving in response to its environment.
What does soil do?
Healthy soil gives us clean air and water, bountiful crops and forests, productive rangeland, diverse wildlife, and beautiful landscapes. Soil does all this by performing five essential functions:
- Regulating water - soil helps control where rain, snowmelt, and irrigation water goes. Water and dissolved solutes flow over the land or into and through the soil
- Sustaining plant and animal life - the diversity and productivity of living things depends on soil
- Filtering potential pollutants - the minerals and microbes in soil are responsible for filtering, buffering, degrading, immobilizing, and detoxifying organic and inorganic materials, including industrial and municipal by-products and atmospheric deposits
- Cycling nutrients - carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and many other nutrients are stored, transformed, and cycled through soil
- Supporting structures - buildings need stable soil for support, and archaeological treasures associated with human habitation are protected in soils.
Importance of soil health
Investigation of soil health is an important key to sustainable land management because it allows for:
- Evaluation of soil management practices in terms of effects on the soil
- Determination of any trends in soil changes
- Focusing conservation efforts by both farmers and others influencing land management decision making
- Guiding farmer decisions on best practices.
Agricultural use of land can have impacts that enhance or degrade soil health. Conclusions obtained from research into soil health may depend on the attributes investigated and so a broad approach has been adopted to assess impacts of agricultural use on the health of a range of soils in Tasmania. Overall these can be classed as chemical, physical and biological characteristics. Chemical characteristics include such properties as soil acidity,
, and the ability to store and retain nutrients. Physical characteristics include stability of soil aggregates, compaction and water storage. Biological characteristics include activity of soil microbes and the presence of beneficial organisms.See also: