Soil Quality Test Kit
The Soil Quality Test Kit Guide describes procedures
for 12 on-farm tests, an interpretive section for each test, data recording
sheets, and a section on how to build your own kit. The NRCS does not build or sell
soil quality test kits. Test kits can be purchased from Gempler's or Murray FFA in Murray, Iowa.
For an abbreviated and economical build-your-own Soil Quality Test Bucket and
associated Soil Quality Kit - Guides for Educators, visit
Soil Quality for Educators.
(Disclaimer: Trade names are used solely to provide specific
information. Mention of a trade name does not constitute a guarantee of the
product by the U.S. Department of Agriculture nor does it imply endorsement by
the Department or the Natural Resources Conservation Service over comparable
products that are not named.)
Download the Soil Quality Test Kit Guide and supporting documents:
Quality Test Kit Fact Sheet (PDF, 290KB)
Test Kit Guide (PDF, 1.5MB) English version
para la Evaluación de la Calidad y Salud del Suelo (PDF, 3MB) Spanish
Quality Evaluation Worksheet (XLS, 60KB) Data entry, calculations, and
Download individual chapters of the Soil Quality Test Kit Guide (English only):
Cover (PDF, 120KB) - Includes the
table of contents, acknowledgements, and preface
Section I - Test Procedures - contains step-by-step instructions for running each
of the tests included in the Soil Quality Test Kit. It is fully illustrated with
to show the procedures and equipment needed to complete each step. Appendix D includes
instructions for building a test kit.
1. Measuring Soil Quality (PDF,
140KB) - sampling and site
2. Soil Respiration Test (PDF,
100KB) - indicates the soil's
3. Infiltration Test (PDF, 84KB) - measures the soil's ability to
take in water through the soil surface
4. Bulk Density Test (PDF, 96KB) - measures the soil's
compaction or pore space
5. Electrical Conductivity (EC) Test (PDF,
56KB) - measures the
salt concentration in the soil
6. pH Test (PDF, 56KB) - measures the soil's acidity /alkalinity
7. Soil Nitrate Test (PDF, 72KB) - measure the soil's
8. Aggregate Stability Test (PDF,
76KB) - measures the amount of
water stable aggregates
9. Slake Test (PDF, 72KB) - estimates the stability of soil
fragments in water
10. Earthworm Test (PDF, 72KB) - measures the amount of
earthworms in the soil
11. Soil Observations and Estimations (PDF, 488KB) - how to
observe soil structure, root patterns, and estimate topsoil depth, penetration resistance and soil texture in the soil profile
12. Water Quality Tests (PDF, 52KB) - Salinity of
nitrate/nitrite levels in water
Appendix A,B, and C (PDF,
- References, soil respiration (alternative method), EC and pH meter maintenance and
Appendix D (PDF,
140KB) - Building a soil quality test kit
Data Sheets (PDF,
196KB) - Soil data work sheets
Section II Background and Interpretive Guide
the background of the tests and provides guidance on interpreting test results.
Background and Interpretive Guide for the Tests
in Section I (PDF, 312KB)
Precision and Accuracy of Soil Quality Kit Tests
- Liebig, M.A., J.W. Doran, and J.C. Gardner. 1996. Evaluation of a field test
kit for measuring selected soil quality indicators. Agron. J. 88:683-686.
- Seybold, C.A. and J.E. Herrick. 2001. Aggregate stability kit for soil
quality assessments. Catena 44(1):37-45.
- Herrick, J.E., W.G. Whitford, A.G. de Soyza, J.W. Van Zee, K.M. Havstad, C.A.
Seybold, M. Walton. 2001. Soil aggregate stability kit for field-based soil
quality and rangeland health evaluations. Catena 44(1):27-35.
- Hubbs, M.D., D.W. Reeves, and C.C. Mitchell Jr. 1998. Measuring soil quality
on the ‘old rotation’. p. 50-54. In: T.C. Keisling (ed.) Proceedings of the
21st Annual Southern Conservation Tillage Conference for Sustainable
Agriculture. July 15-17, 1998. North Little Rock, Arkansas. Arkansas
Agricultural Experiment Station, Fayeeteville, Arkansas.
- Evanylo, G and R. McGuinn. 2000. Agricultural management practices and soil quality: Measuring, assessing, and comparing laboratory and field test kit indicators of soil quality attributes. http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/compost/452-400/452-400.html
Use of Soil Quality Test Kit
- Cramer, C. 1994. Test your soils’ health. The New Farm. Part 1
16:17-21. Part 2 16:40-45. Part 3 16:46-45.
- Hubbs, M.D., C.A. Seybold, and D.D. Tylor. 2000. Effects of cotton tillage
systems on soil quality using on-farm tests. Proceedings of the Beltwide Cotton
Conference. Volume 1:45-47. National Cotton Council, Memphis, TN.
- Sarrantonio, M., J.W. Doran, M.A. Liebig, and J.J. Halvorson. 1996. On-farm
assessment of soil quality and health. p.83-106. In: J.W. Doran and A.J. Jones
(eds.) Methods for assessing soil quality. SSSA Spec. Publ. 49.
- Seybold, C.A., R.P. Dick, and F.J. Pierce. 2001. USDA soil quality test kit:
Approaches for comparative assessments. Soil Survey Horizons 42(2):43-52.
- Seybold, C., M. Hubbs, and D. Tylor. 2001. On-Farm Tests Indicate Effects of
Long-Term Tillage Systems on Soil Quality. J. Sustainable Agric. 19(4):61-74.