Soil Health Outreach Information

What is Soil Health?

The Idaho Soil Health Assessment Card developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) defines Soil Health as the continued capacity of a soil to function. Healthy soils support plants, animals and humans by:

 cycling nutrients

 increasing water infiltration and availability

 filtering and buffering toxic compounds

 maintaining a stable porous structure that withstands natural forces (e.g.  water, wind)


Healthy, fully functioning soil creates a habitat that sustains diverse soil micro- and macro-organisms.  

The Idaho Soil Health Assessment Card will help to determine how well your soil is functioning, including infiltrating water, cycling nutrients, and evaluating other biological parameters.


Why is Soil Health Important?

Soils that lack organic matter, structure, and microorganisms are susceptible to erosion, hold less water, and need more chemical inputs to rebalance their productivity.  

For example, water runoff is the symptom we see when soils have a water infiltration problem. Improving soil health increases soil aggregates and improves soil structure resulting in greater water infiltration, decreased erosion, and reduced runoff and sedimentation.

Follow these 5 Key Principles to improve soil health:

                     1. Minimize soil disturbance

                     2. Maximize the diversity of plants in the rotation

                     3. Keep living roots in the soil as much as possible

                     4. Keep the soil covered with armor

                     5. Integrate livestock into the cropping system

 (Information taken from the Idaho Soil Health Assessment Card developed by the NRCS)


Information and Resources:

(Click on the documents below to view)

Soil Health Support Tool: Satellite Data Tools For Wyoming Agriculture 

Fall 2017 CowCountry Articles:

                 1) Rangeland Soil Health: How to assess it in ways that inform livestock  management

                2) Rangeland Soil Health and Livestock Production

 Soils and Soil Testing

                Hierarchical Approach to Understanding Soil Function – Spheres of Influence

                The Biology of Soil Compaction

                NRCS Field Book for Describing & Sampling Soils

                Sweatless Soil Sampler

Soil Health: Principles 

Soil Armor

 Minimizing Soil Disturbance

 Plant Diversity

 Continual Live Plant/Root

 Livestock Integration

Soil Quality Information Sheets (NRCS) – while these are targeted at rangelands, the principles are applicable to all land uses

 Rangeland Soil Quality: Introduction

 Indicators for Assessment & Monitoring

 Aggregate Stability



 Organic Matter

 Physical & Biological Soil Crusts

 Soil Biota

 Soil Erosion

 Wind Erosion

Haney Soil Test Information

                         Soil Health Nutrient Tool (Haney Test)

                         Soil Depth and ID

                         Soil Health Tool Explanation v 4.6

                         Soil Testing Labs for Soil Health Nutrient Tool



                    June 7, 2017 – Buffalo, WY  

                    Nov 28, 2017 – Casper, WY

                   Spring 2018 – Fremont County (Additional information will be posted soon)

Soil Health Research:

Teague et al.2011, Grazing management impacts on vegetation, soil biota and soil chemical, physical and hydrological properties in tall grass prairie


Links to Additional Soil Health Resources:

Wyoming Soil Health Management   

Field and lab soil tests for rangeland management– Dr. Jay Norton 

Wyoming Natural Resources Conservation Service

Wyoming NRCS Soils Webpage and Resources 

National Soil Health Webpage – NRCS 

Soil Management on Wyoming Farms and Ranches 

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