Soil Health Quiz

Date:

Field Identification:

Soil Tilth
Indicators
Descriptive Ratings
  Good Fair Poor
Structure

Good crumb structure, tills easily leaving no clods, soil breaks apart easily

 

 

Moderate crumb structure, some clods, soil breaks apart with some pressure

 

Hard, tills with difficulty,tillage creates lots of clods

 

Crusting

Soil maintains open/porous surface all growing season, seedling emergence not affected

 

Some surface sealing, minimal effect on seedling emergence

Soil surface seals easily after tillage and rain events, inhibits seedling emergence

Compaction

Loose soil, unrestricted root penetraton

Firm soil, root penetration somewhat restricted, slightly flattened root tips, some horizontal growth

Hard layers, tight soil, severely restricted root penetration, root tips flattened, horizontal growth and bunched roots common

Notes

 

Soil Life
Indicators
Descriptive Ratings
  Good Fair Poor
Earthworms

Lots of earthworms, many holes, casts and middens

Some earthworms, few holes, casts or middens

No visible signs of earthworm activity

Smell

Soil has a fresh, earthy smell

Soil has little or no smell

Soil has a swampy, stagnant smell

Residue

Decomposition

Residue at various stages of decomposition on soil surface and in the topsoil

Some visible, non-decomposed residue in the topsoil

Rapid decomposition with little or no visible residue in the topsoil or very slow decomposition with relatively unweathered residue in the topsoil or at the bottom of the plow layer

Notes

 

Soil Air and Water
Indicators
Descriptive Ratings
  Good Fair Poor
Drainage

Soils drain and warms quickly in spring, limited delays in field operations, good balance between air and water in the soil, yield reduction in only very wet years, crop growth is consistent and even

Soils drain and warm more slowly in spring, some delays in field operations, water-logged after heavy rains, minimal yield reduction, crop is uneven in some sections of field

Soils stay wet for long periods, delays in field operations, soil doesn't breathe, reduces yields, average crop yield below area average, crop is uneven across most of field

 

Water-Holding Capacity

Soil holds water well, deep topsoil for water storage, crops seldom suffer from moderate dry spells

Soil has moderate capacity to hold water, crops are not the first in the area to suffer from dry weather

Soil has limited capacity to hold water, crops suffer in moderate dry spells

Water Movement

Rainfall soaks in, very little runoff & erosion, water does not pond

Absorbs water, but more slowly, some runoff & erosion, ponding after heavy rains

Absorbs water very slowly, lots of runoff & erosion, ponding after moderate rains

Notes

 

Plant Vigour
Indicators
Descriptive Ratings
  Good Fair Poor
Uniformity in Growth & colour

Uniform deep-green colour, rapid growth, even stand (height and population), no visible signs of stress

Some variation in colour, height, and population, moderate growth, mild stress

 

Uneven colour, variable height and population, stunted and stressed, nutrient deficiency symptoms

Seedling

Emergence

Rapid and even emergence

Some variability in emergence

Slow and uneven emergence

root Systems Healthy, uninhibited root growth, lots of fine roots

Root growth somewhat restricted, some fine roots

Restricted root growth, few fine roots

Notes

 

Fertility Management
Indicators
Descriptive Ratings
  Good Fair Poor
Nutrient Levels

 

Soil Test levels are adequate for planned crops and yield goals, no visible signs of plant nutrient deficiency

 

One or more soil test levels are less than adequate for planned crops and yield goals, no visible signs of plant nutrient deficiency

 

One or more soil test levels are deficient or excessive for planned crops and yield goals, visible signs of plant nutrient deficiency may be present

Soil PH

pH levels are within the acceptable range for the planned crops

pH levels slightly above or below the acceptable range for planned crops

pH levels are too high or too low for the planned crops

 

Organic Matter

 

Organic matter levels are being maintained or increasing, dark, friable, with good structure

Sandy Soils>2%

Loams >3%

Clay Soils >4%

Organic matter levels can be improved, some crusting and clods

Sandy Soils 1 -2%
Loams 1-3%
Clay Soils 2-4%

 

Organic matter levels are decreasing, light-coloured, crusted, cloddy, hard

Clays below 2%

Sands & Sandy Loams below 1%

Notes

 

Erosion
Indicators
Descriptive Ratings
  Good Fair Poor
Water Erosion No visible signs of erosion. Subsoil is not exposed on knolls, soil colour is similar to the rest of the field. Crop growth and yield is uniform across field. Little evidence of slumping, rill or gully erosion. Subsoil may be exposed. Soil may be lighter in colour and harder to fill than the rest of the field. Crop growth and yield may display a slight difference compared to the rest of the field

Slumping, gullies and rill erosion in many places. Subsoil exposed on knolls, soil is often lighter in colour. Hilltops may be stonier than the rest of the field. Crop growth and yield are greatly reduced on knolls

Wind Erosion

No evidence of wind damage on or off the field

Seasonal evidence of damage by wind erosion on and off the field

Frequent evidence of dust, drifting soil, dark brown snowdrifts and crop damage

Tillage Erosion

No visible signs of erosion. Subsoil is not exposed, soil colour is similar to the rest of the field. Tillage passes are few and land is nearly level

Subsoil may be exposed. Soil may be lighter in colour and harder to till than the rest of the field. Four or less tillage passes/yr. in total and rolling topography

 

Subsoil exposed on knolls, solid is often lighter in colour. More than 4 tillage passes/yr. and rolling topography with several knolls

Notes

Once you have completed the Soil Health Quiz go to Interpreting the Soil Health Quiz, for soil management problems and solutions.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Adam Hayes - Soil Management Specialist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 30 September 2014
Last Reviewed: 30 September 2014