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Book: Methods for Assessing Soil Quality
Published by: Soil Science Society of America

 

 

This chapter in METHODS FOR ASSESSING SOIL QUALITY

  1.  p. i-xxv
    SSSA Special Publication 49.
    Methods for Assessing Soil Quality

    John W. Doran and Alice J. Jones (ed.)

    ISBN: 978-0-89118-944-2

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doi:10.2136/sssaspecpub49.frontmatter

Front Matter

Foreword

Everyone is in favor of excellent water and air quality. Likewise no one would argue against having excellent soil quality. The concepts of water quality and air quality have been accepted by both the public and the scientific community. For example, if water is suitable for drinking or human consumption, it is considered to have acceptable water quality. For many, the concept of soil quality is newer and the standard against which soil quality is compared has not been as well defined. In fact, soil quality is evaluated against the intended use of the soil. It is for this reason that the concept of soil quality is still a bit controversial.

What is soil quality anyway? Soil quality, as referenced in the preface of this publication, states that it is “the capacity of the soil, within land use and ecosystem boundaries, to sustain biological productivity, maintain environmental quality, and promote plant, animal, and human health”. An SSSA–ASA symposium in 1992 entitled “Defining Soil Quality for A Sustainable Environment” attempted to define more clearly the soil quality concept. The contents of that symposium were published in 1994 in SSSA Special Publication 35.

The information presented in this publication Methods for Assessing Soil Quality results from the continued pursuit by a number of dedicated researchers to develop methodologies to assess soil quality for a range of soils and their uses. The chapters in this publication evolved primarily from the research, debate and actions of two regional research committees, NCR-59 (Soil Organic Matter and Soil Quality) and NC-174 (Impact of Accelerated Erosion on Soil Properties and Productivity). Both committees, working from different viewpoints, use different methods to assess soil quality parameters on a wide range of soils in the Midwestern USA. A number of case studies, some from countries overseas, are included.

The contents of this special publication are progressive, at times provocative, and undoubtedly will stimulate continued debate on the soil quality concept.

D. Keith Cassel

President, SSSA

Preface

Soil Quality and Health: Indicators of Sustainability

Soil quality are words being used today, not only across the USA but around the world, to describe the soil's ability to produce food and fiber and to function as an important interface with the environment. It is becoming part of the vocabulary of farmers and ranchers as well as environmentalists, politicians, and researchers. Increasing familiarity and use of the words soil quality reflect the growing awareness that soil is an essential component of the biosphere. Soil is required for significant production of food and fiber. It also makes a major contribution to maintaining and enhancing air and water quality at the local, regional, national, and global level.

By functioning as a living filter, through which water is cycled and chemicals are altered, soil influences environmental quality and the overall functioning of the biosphere. Soil quality can be broadly defined as the capacity of a soil to function, within land use and ecosystem boundaries, to sustain biological productivity, maintain environmental quality, and promote plant, animal, and human health (after Doran & Parkin, 1994; Karlen et al., 1997). The terms soil quality and soil health are often used interchangeably. Some people prefer the term soil health because it portrays soil as a living, dynamic organism that functions holistically rather than as an inanimate object. Others prefer the term soil quality and descriptors of its innate physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. In this book the terms soil health and soil quality are used synonymously; however, soil quality tends to be used more often because of the orientation of the authors.

Soil quality affects three essential facets of sustainable land management: Productivity of crops and livestock, Environmental Quality of natural resources, and Health of plants, animals, and humans. To successfully assess soil quality, today's researchers are challenged to develop research philosophies and approaches that facilitate holistic, system-oriented investigations. Diverse disciplines that span production, environmental quality, and health will be needed to implement such investigations and to generate technologies that can be adapted and used by land managers. Thus, it is not reasonable to expect that we can assess soil quality using only traditional reductionistic approaches that confine our interpretations to narrow scientific disciplines (Bouma, 1997). Nor is it reasonable to assume that such investigations, although interdisciplinary, can be fully successful without the involvement of agricultural producers and land managers as active partners in the research process. This point was emphasized at a recent international symposium on “Advances in Soil Quality for Land Management: Science, Practice, and Policy” held in Ballarat, Australia, in April 1996; the theme of this conference was “Soil Quality is in the Hands of the Land Manager.”

The importance of soil quality assessment to sustainability and agricultural policy decision making was highlighted in the National Research Council report entitled Soil and Water Quality: An Agenda for Agriculture. This study concluded that, “Protecting soil quality, like protecting air and water quality, should be a fundamental goal of national environmental policy” (National Research Council, 1993). The need to develop methodology to characterize and define management factors controlling the degradation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of soil quality is gaining greater national and international recognition. During the last 5 yr, concern about deficiencies in the basic understanding of soil quality and lack of mechanistically-based soil quality methodology, particularly the soil biota, was a major focus of conferences and publications on sustainability and soil quality in the USA (Rodale, Pennsylvania; ASA and SSSA, Minnesota), Thailand, Hungary , the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere (see Acton & Gregorich, 1995; Greenland & Szabolcs, 1994).

In an effort to address the need for standardized methods and strategies for assessing soil quality and health, the NCR-59 Regional Technical Committee on ‘Soil Organic Matter and Soil Quality’ formed a subcommittee in September 1992. The committee's goal was to coalesce as much information as possible on the various soil physical, chemical, and biological properties considered to be essential in assessing soil quality and to provide standardized methods and protocols for soil quality assessment. Cross referencing of measurements from the literature is complicated by the fact that analytical results are methods dependent and protocols for measurement vary among investigators. Therefore, establishment of standardized methods and protocols was viewed essential to development of useful data bases and indices for soil quality. Disciplinary perspectives and applications for this approach were broadened in 1993, when the NC-174 Regional Technical Committee on ‘Impact of Accelerated Erosion on Soil Properties and Productivity” joined NCR-59 as a partner in developing this book on soil quality methods and approaches.

There are two unique features of Methods for Assessing Soil Quality that separate it from other methods texts written by soil scientists. First is the inclusion of chapters that focus on the linkages of soil quality to the health of plants, animals, and humans, and farmer-based approaches to assessing soil quality. Second, are the concluding chapters highlighting preliminary case studies that discern land use and management impacts on soil quality; develop and synthesize possible soil quality indices for sustainability; and demonstrate educational tools and techniques to increase knowledge and understanding about soil quality and its role in the biosphere.

Methods for Assessing Soil Quality builds on two previous publications, Defining Soil Quality for a Sustainable Environment (SSSA Spec. Publ. 35; Doran et al., 1994) and Soil Health and Sustainability (Doran et al., 1996). This book bridges our understanding of the theory, methods, and applications of soil quality. Thus, research scientists, resource managers, consultants, farm owners and operators, and educators can quickly grasp and use portions of the information presented here. More important, a greater appreciation of the connectedness of soil quality across production, environmental, and societal entities can be gained by all readers.

Approaches presented in this book provide a unique illustration of how research techniques can be made transferable and relevant to agricultural producers and the general public. Authors include agricultural and environmental researchers, extension educators, Natural Resources Conservation Service staff, and other closely aligned scientists that have demonstrated an interest and involvement in assessment of soil quality and health. Many have already made considerable contributions in this area. Author experiences range from that of highly established professionals to those who are at the beginning of their professional careers. Selection of co-authors for each chapter has been made with the idea of achieving a balance of viewpoints, experience, and institutional representation.

The process involved with developing this book may prove to be as important as the final product. It provided a unique opportunity for professionals within the federal, state, and private sectors to work cooperatively on an issue of major concern to farming, agricultural sustainability and the general survival and well-being of people around the world.

It is our hope that this book will advance agricultural sustainability by providing standardized tools and approaches for assessing the effects of land management on soil quality and health. The integrative approach to assessing the effects of agricultural management on soil function and sustainability is intended to extend beyond the usual reductionistic constraints of the physical, chemical, and biological disciplines.

The editors extend thanks to the 59 contributors to this book and to the editorial committee: Richard P. Dick, Rattan Lal, Birl Lowery, Charles W. Rice, and Diane Stott, for their vigilance and persistence during review and revision of this book. Thanks also are extended to the administrative advisors for the NCR-59 and NC-174 regional committees, Signe Betsinger (Minnesota), George E. Ham (Kansas), and Jerry Klonglan (Iowa) for facilitating this joint project.

JOHN W. DORAN

USDA-ARS

University of Nebraska

Lincoln, Nebraska

ALICE J. JONES

University of Nebraska

Lincoln, Nebraska

Contributors

Deborah L. Allan Associate Professor of Soil Science, Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108; telephone: 612-625-3158, fax: 612-625-2208, email: dallan@soils.umn.edu

W. L. Anderson Professor of Soil Science, School of Agribusiness and Agriscience Middle Tennessee State University, School of Agribusiness and Agriscience, Murfreesboro, TN 37132; telephone: 615-898-2408, fax: 615-898-5169, e-mail: andersonw@acad1.mtsu.edu

M. A. (Charlie) Arshad Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Station Road, P.O. Box 29, Beaverlodge Alberta TOH 0C0 Canada; telephone: 403-354-5110, fax: 403-354-8171, email: arshadc@em.agr.ca

Phillip Barak Assistant Professor of Soil Science, Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin, 1525 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706; telephone: 608-263-5450, fax: 608-265-2595, email: barak@ calshp.cals.wisc.edu

Mike Beare Soil Scientist, New Zealand Institute of Crop and Food Research, Canterbury Agriculture and Science Centre, Private Bag 4704, Christchurch, New Zealand; telephone: 64-3-325-6400, fax: 64-3-325-2074, email: bearem@lincoin.cri.nz

David F. Bezdicek Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, P.O. Box 646420, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6240; telephone: 509-335-3644, fax: 509-335-8674, email: bezdicek@wsu.edu

John M. Blair Assistant Professor of Biology, Division of Biology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506; telephone: 913-532-7065, fax: 913-532-6653, email: jbiair@ksu.ksu.edu

Patrick J. Bohlen Research Associate, Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Box AB, Millbrook, NY 12545; telephone: 914-677-7651, fax: 914-677-5976, email: cajv@vm.marist.edu

Donald P. Breakwell Assistant Professor, Department of Life Sciences, Snow College, Ephraim, UT 84627

Cynthia A. Cambardella USDA-ARS, National Soil Tilth Laboratory, 2150 Pammel Drive, Ames, IA 50011; telephone: 515-294-2921, fax: 515-294-8125, email: cindyc@nstl.gov

L. J. Cihacek Associate Professor of Soil Science, Soil Science Department, North Dakota State University, Box 5638, Fargo, ND 58105; telephone: 701-231-8572, fax: 701-231-7861, email: cihacek@badlands. nodak.edu

Sharon A. Clancy Ecologist, North Dakota State University, Carrington Research Education Center, P.O. Box 219, Carrington, ND 58421; telephone: 701-652-2951, fax: 701-652-2055, email: recenter@ndsuext.nodak. edu

K. J. Coughlan Program Coordinator, Land and Water Resources, ACIAR, Canberra, Australia

Richard P. Dick Professor of Soil Science, 3017 Agriculture and Life Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331-7306; telephone: 541-737-5718, fax: 541-737-5725, email: dickr@ccs.orst.edu

John W. Doran Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, 116 Keim Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0915; telephone: 402-472-1510, fax: 402-472-0516, email: jdoran@unlinfo.unl.edu

Laurie E. Drinkwater Rodale Research Center, 611 Siegfriedale Road, Kutztown, PA 19530, telephone: 610-683-1437, fax: 610-683-8548, email: ldrink@ rodaleinst.org

Neal S. Eash Assistant Professor, Plant and Soil Science Department, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37901

Karen N. Easterling Statistician, Pharmaceutical Product Development, North Carolina State University, 1500 Perimeter Park Drive, Suite 300, Morrisville, NC 27560; telephone: 919-363-4343, email: easterkn@ppdi.com

E. Franco-Vizcaíno Visiting Professor, Department Crop and Soil Science, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Ml 48854-1325, telephone: 517-355-0223, fax: 517-353-5174, email: 228335mgr@msu.edu

Diana W. Freckman Professor and Director, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523; telephone: 970-491-1982, fax: 970-491-3945, email: dfreckman@lternet.edu

John GardnerDirector and Agronomist, North Dakota State University, Carrington Research Center, P.O. Box 219, Carrington, ND 58421; telephone: 701-652-2951, fax: 701-652-2055, email: jogardne@prairie.nodak. edu

M. Jason Garlynd Department of Soil Science, 1525 Observatory Drive, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706-1299; telephone: 608-263-5691, fax: 608-265-2595

A. A. Gomez SEARCA, Laguna 4031, Philippines; telephone: 632-818-1926, fax: 632-817-0598, email: aag@agri.searca.org

Bob Grossman USDA-SCS, Room 152, Federal Building, Lincoln, NE 68508-5760; telephone: 402-437-5697, fax: 402-437-5336

Niklaus J. Grünwald Research Assistant, Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616; telephone: 916-752-7795, fax: 916-752-5674, email: njgrunwald@ucdavis.edu

Jonathan J. Halvorson Research Assocaite, USDA-ARS, 215 Johnson Hall, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6421; telephone: 509-335-2263, fax: 509-335-3842, email: halvorjj@mail.wsu.edu

Robin F. Harris Professor of Soil Science and Chair, Department of Soil Science, 1525 Observatory Drive, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706-1299; telephone: 608-263-5691, fax: 608-265-2595, email: rfharris@facstaff.wisc.edu

William J. Hickey Associate Professor, Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin, 1525 Observatory Drive, Madison WI 53706-1299; telephone: 608-262-9018, fax: 608-265-2595, email: wjhickey@ facstaff.wisc.edu

Douglas L. Karlen Research Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, National Soil Tilth Laboratory, 2150 Pammel Drive, Ames, IA 50011, telephone: 515-294-3336, fax: 515-294-8125, email: dkarlen@nstl.gov

P. Karageorgou Research Assistant, Goulandris Natural History Museum, 13 Levidou Street, 14562 Kifisia, Greece; telephone: 01-8087345, fax: 01-8080674

Randy Killorn Professor of Soil Fertility, 2104 Agronomy Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011; telephone: 515-294-1923, fax: 515-294-9985, email: rkillorn@iastate.edu

Rattan Lal Professor of Soil Science, School of Natural Resources, Ohio State University, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-5445; telephone: 614-292-9069, fax: 614-292-4424 or 7432, email: lal.l@ osu.edu

Mark A. Liebig Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Agronomy, 197 Plant Science Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln NE 68583-0915; telephone: 402-472-9035, fax: 402-472-0516, email: mliebig@unlinfo.unl.edu

A. Liopa-Tsakalidi Researcher, Foundation for Research and Technology, Institute of Chemical Engineering and High Temperature Chemical Processes, P.O. Box 1414, GR-26500 Patpas, Greece; telephone: 061-991527, fax: 061-991527

Birl Lowery Professor, Department of Soil Science, 525 Observatory Drive, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, telephone: 608-262-2752, fax: 608-265-2595, email: blowery@facstaff.wisc.edu

L.M. Maniati Research Assistant, Goulandris Natural History Museum, 13 Levidou Street, 145 62 Kifissia, Greece; telephone: 01-8087345, fax: 01-8080674

Maurice J. Mausbach Director, Soil Quality Institute, USDA-NRCS, 2150 Pammel Drive, Ames, IA 50011; telephone: 515-294-4592, fax: 515-294-8125, email: mausbach@nstl.gov

Betty F. McQuaid Soil Ecologist, USDA-NRCS, Watershed Sciences Institute, 1509 Varsity Drive, Raleigh, NC 27606; telephone: 919-515-9482, fax: 919-515-3593, email: betty_mcquaid@ncsu.edu

Thomas B. Moorman Microbiologist, USDA-ARS, National Soil Tilth Laboratory, 2150 Pammel Drive, Ames, IA 50011; telephone: 515-294-2308, fax: 515-294-8125, email: moorman@nstl.gov.

Gary B. Muckel Soil Scientist, USDA-NRCS, 100 Centennial Mall North, Room 152, Lincoln, NE 68508-3866; telephone: 402-437-4148, fax: 402-437-5336, email: gmuckel@nssc.nssc.nrcs.usda.gov

David J. Mulla Professor and W.E. Larson Chair for Soil and Water Resources, Department of Soil, Water and Climate, 564 Borlaug Hall, University of Minnesota, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108; telephone: 612-625-6721, fax: 612-624-4223, email: dmulla@ soils.umn.edu

E. Natioti Research Assistant, Goulandis Natural History Museum, 13 Levidou Street, 145 62 Kifisia, Greece; telephone: 01-8087345, fax: 01-8080674

Gail L. Olson Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies, P.O. Box 1625, Idaho Falls, ID 83415-2107; telephone: 208-526-4069, fax: 208-526-0603, email: olsogl@inel.gov

Robert I. Papendick USDA-ARS, 215 Johnson Hall, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6421; telephone: 509-335-1552, fax: 509-335-3842

Timothy B. Parkin Soil Microbiologist, USDA-ARS, National Soil Tilth Laboratory, 2150 Pammel Drive, Ames, IA 50011; telephone: 515-294-6888, fax: 515-294-8125, email: parkin@nstl.gov

Jean D. Reeder Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, Crops Research Laboratory, 1701 Center Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80526; telephone: 970-498-4236, fax: 970-482-2909, email: jdreeder@lamar.colostate.edu

Charles W. Rice Associate Professor of Soil Microbiology, Department of Agronomy, Throckmorton Plant Sciences Center, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-5501; telephone: 913-532-7217, fax: 913-532-6094, email: cwrice@ksu.edu

Douglas E. Romig Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706; telephone: 608-265-4850, fax: 608-265-2595, email: dromig@emnrdsf.state.nm.us

Marianne Sarrantonio Assistant Professor of Agroecology, 101 Eisenberg Hall, Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, PA 16057; telephone: 412-738-2972, fax: 412-738-2959, email: marianne.sarrantonio@sru.edu

Joyce Mack Scheyer Soil Scientist, USDA-NRCS, National Soil Survey Center, Federal Building, Room 152, 100 Centennial Mall North, Lincoln, NE 68508-3866; telephone: 402-437-5698, fax: 402-437-5336, email: mack@nssc.nrcs.usda.gov

Lawrence J. Sikora Soil Microbiologist, USDA-ARS, Soil Microbial Systems Laboratory, Building 318, BARC-East, Beltsville, MD 20705; telephone: 301-504-9384, fax: 301-504-8370, email: lsikora@asrr.arsusda.gov

Jeffrey L. Smith Soil Biochemist, USDA-ARS, 215 Johnson Hall, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6421; telephone: 509-335-7648, fax: 509-335-3842, email: jlsmith@mail.wsu.edu

Stamatis Stamatiadis Laboratory Director, Goulandris Natural History Museum, 13 Levidou Street, 145 62 Kifissia, Greece; telephone: 01-8087345, fax: 01-8080674, email: stam@greece_nature.ath.forthnet.gr

D.E. Stott Research Soil Microbiologist, USDA-ARS, National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory, 1196 Soil Building, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1196; telephone: 317-494-6657, fax: 317-494-5948, email: stottd@soils.ecn.purdue.edu

David E. Swete Kelly Maroochy Horticultural Research Station, P.O. Box 5083, Nambour, Queensland 4560, Australia; telephone: 011-617-441-2211, fax: 011-617-441-2235, email: swetekd@dpi.qld.gov.au

J. K. Syers Professor, Department of Agriculture and Environmental Science, The University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom

David R. Thomas Professor, Department of Statistics, 44 Kidder, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331; telephone: 541-737-1983, fax: 541-737-3489, email: thomas@stat.orst.edu

Ronald F. Turco Department of Agronomy, 1150 Lily Hall, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1150; telephone: 317-494-8077, fax: 317-494-6508, e-mail rturco@dept.agry.purdue.edu

Ariena H.C. van Bruggen Professor of Plant Pathology, Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616; telephone: 916-752-5026, fax: 916-752-5674, email: ahvanbruggen@ucdavis.edu

 

References

Footnotes


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