tools for soil assessment

Before you begin to assess soil properties or function (e.g. forage yield and quality), it is important to be clear about what you are trying to answer and will to help determine the best way to sample, how many samples to take and what kind of analysis you need.

example questions:

How much lime you need to apply to a field to maintain soil pH?

You need a soil sample for analysis that is representative of the whole field to rooting depth – the usual method is to walk a W and bulk a number of small soil samples (0-15 cm) together, mix them and then send a sub-sample away for analysis.

If you want to know why a field is giving fewer grazing days than other fields on the farm;

Then you will need to compare any measurements (physical, chemical or biological) you take for this field to other fields on the farm. Ideally the comparison will be with another field with similar slope, soil type etc as these factors will also affect grazing days but can’t be changed through management. Try and collect the samples so that the information collected by a number of methods can be linked together – e.g. take samples for soil pH from soil pits where GRassland Soil Assessment is carried out and record worm numbers.

If you want to know whether a new management practice applied to a small area is giving benefits;

Then you will need to compare measurements (of forage or soil) you take for this area to other areas in the same field (or similarly managed fields).  When trying out a new practice it is good to test it on a small area or split field for at least one season, so that you can check that it works for you.

The following tools have been developed for this project or are recommended for on-farm use

Resources (as pdf or links)