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Scientist wearing protective gloves examining a soil sample from a petri dish

Scientist wearing protective gloves examining a soil sample from a petri dish

New Standards for Analyzing Soil Health

Determining soil health is a complex process that requires a deep understanding of the living soil ecosystem, including the microbial community that lives in soils. When measuring and analyzing soil health, there is a critical need for reliable and consistent scientific methods and protocols to reduce study variability, improve interpretation of results, and increase the use of soil health assessments for developing better soil health management practices.

A consortium of ARS scientists across the country has developed a protocol to address sources of variability and uncertainty in measuring microbial community composition and its connection with agricultural management and changing climate. Success in these areas is essential for deriving a “return on investment” for farmers, both here in the U.S. and abroad, who are interested in more soil health-promoting practices. These measures will ensure that our diverse soils are healthy, sustainable, and resilient to climate change, which in turn will ensure healthy crop production in the future.

Explore Other Discoveries

Adaptive Nutrient Management

ARS researchers in Temple, TX, employed adaptive nutrient management to determine preferred balances on farms.

Carbon Mapping on the Go

ARS researchers have developed a unique mobile system that assesses and maps out soil carbon to a depth of 30 centimeters (the plow layer) – all in real time.

Developing Biofuel Opportunities

ARS scientists are investigating ways to ensure agriculture can produce renewable fuels that will help diminish our carbon footprint.

Elephant Grass as Bio-Feedstock

Scientists conducted research on how farm management practices could maximize elephant grass’s utility as a bioethanol feedstock.

Take Your Alfalfa Out to Pasture

Beef producers in the western United States have been searching for alternatives to nitrogen-rich fertilizers .

To Save More Water, Plant Corn Later

A team of researchers and their partners have found another way to conserve water: late planted corn.

Wrangling for Resiliency

ARS researchers and the USDA Southwest Climate Hub developed a new set of tools aiming at helping farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders plan for serious environmental challenges.