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Digging Deeper into Soil Health


The Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health (CASH) test has been offered since 2006 and provides a measurement of 15 physical, biological, and chemical soil properties. Measured values are related to soil health using scoring functions, which help land managers interpret results, identify soil constraints and make management decisions. CASH scoring functions were originally calibrated for the Northeast USA, but the tool has been increasingly applied to other regions.

In the May-June issue of Soil Science Society of America Journal, Cornell University researchers detail the current state of the CASH after a decade of soil health testing. Using the large sample database (n=5767) generated by the lab, they applied analytics to summarize the database for three US regions (Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast) and to explore multivariate relationships among indicators.

Differences among regions were observed for biological indicators (organic matter, active carbon, respiration) and aggregate stability, with Midwest soils having lower mean values, presumably related to more prevalent intensive row crop production. Best subsets regression found that active carbon is the best single predictor (45%) of overall CASH score. Data of penetration resistance, respiration, and aggregate stability were additionally informative (68%). Scoring functions for these indicators should ultimately be calibrated to regional soil conditions. 

Read the full open access article in SSSAJ.