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


June 7, 2017 – Buffalo, WY

November 28, 2017 - Casper, WY

August 22, 2018 - Wheatland, WY

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.

Information and Resources: (click on documents below to view)

Cover Crops for Soil Health:

Cover Crop Periodic Table - WY

Cover Crop Periodic Table - NRCS

Rangeland Soil Health Information:

Principles for High Functioning Soil 

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 Armour

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


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

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