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Open AccessArticle

Simple Soil Tests for On-Site Evaluation of Soil Health in Orchards

Dept. Plant Soils and Climate, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
UC Cooperative Extension, Fresno, CA 93710, USA
Dept. Biology, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(21), 6009;
Received: 20 September 2019 / Revised: 23 October 2019 / Accepted: 26 October 2019 / Published: 29 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Natural Resource Management)
Standard commercial soil tests typically quantify nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, pH, and salinity. These factors alone are not sufficient to predict the long-term effects of management on soil health. The goal of this study was to assess the effectiveness and use of simple physical, biological, and chemical soil health indicator tests that can be completed on-site. Analyses were conducted on soil samples collected from three experimental peach orchards located on the Utah State Horticultural Research Farm in Kaysville, Utah. All simple tests were correlated to comparable lab analyses using Pearson’s correlation. The highest positive correlations were found between Solvita® respiration, and microbial biomass (R = 0.88), followed by our modified slake test and microbial biomass (R = 0.83). Both Berlese funnel and pit count methods of estimating soil macro-organism diversity were fairly predictive of soil health. Overall, simple commercially available chemical tests were weak indicators of soil nutrient concentrations compared to laboratory tests. Modified slake tests, Solvita® respiration and soil organism biodiversity counts may be efficient and cost-effective tools for monitoring soil health on-site. View Full-Text
Keywords: soil health; soil quality; simple on-site soil tests, sustainable agriculture soil health; soil quality; simple on-site soil tests, sustainable agriculture
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Thomsen, E.O.; Reeve, J.R.; Culumber, C.M.; Alston, D.G.; Newhall, R.; Cardon, G. Simple Soil Tests for On-Site Evaluation of Soil Health in Orchards. Sustainability 2019, 11, 6009.

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