A Complete Guide to Measuring the Soil Health

Sunlight, air, water, and various other nutrients are necessary for the healthy growth of a plant. Plants get essential nutrients from the soil, therefore measuring the different aspects of the soil is a must before growing plants and crops to identify the amount of nutrients present in it. Measuring soil means testing the soil sample and analysing it to determine its composition and characteristics. Testing the soil also helps us know about its fertility, nutrient deficiency, pH level, temperature, moisture content, and determine the amount of fertilizers needed by the soil to fill the missing nutrients so that plants get the required nutrients in the right amount.  Plants need potassium, sulphur, magnesium, calcium, nitrogen, phosphate, and a few other minerals for healthy growth.  

Soil testing:

It is done in the labs that perform various tests to check the amount of nutrients present in the sample of soil. Advanced soil testing lab equipment give accurate result which can be further analysed and interpreted to identify the suitable solution to fix the soil problem. Fertilizer composition and dosage can be facilitated with the help of it.

Methods of soil testing:

There are various methods of soil testing like do-it-yourself kits, electrical meters, electrical conductivity testing, etc. Do-it-yourself kits identify the amount of only three major minerals I.e. potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen, soil acidity, and pH level whereas electrical meters identify water content of the soil along with its nutrient content and pH level. These tests are less accurate than the tests performed in labs. 

Electrical conductivity of soil:

Keeping track of the soil health by measuring all the nutrients is crucial. Testing electrical conductivity of soil is one of the ways to monitor the health and amount of nutrients present in the soil. The electrical conductivity of soil is a measure of the amount of salt present in it. It is an important indicator of soil health.

Factor affecting soil’s electrical conductivity:

Soil’s electrical conductivity can be affected by various factors like temperature, moisture levels, fertilizers, soil type, etc. The pH level of the soil tells whether the salt is acidic or basic which can further impact the results of electrical conductivity. The soil is said to be acidic when positively charged hydrogen ions are present whereas soil is said to be basic in case of presence of negatively charged hydroxyl ions. These ions can carry electricity as they have charge in them. Therefore, more acidic or basic the soil, the greater number of ions are present in it. Hence electrical conductivity will be higher.  

Methods of testing the soil:

It is important to test the electrical conductivity of soil as it helps in balancing the required nutrients for better crop yield. There are various methods for testing the soil’s electrical conductivity for example, by testing pore water or the water present in the soil, testing total or bulk conductivity of soil, or by creating slurry and measuring saturated soil extract EC in it. 

Choosing the method of soil testing wisely is essential for maintaining the health of the soil which would further help in yielding good quality and quantity of crops. 

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