Rigorous, empirical, and quantitative: a proposed pipeline for soil health assessments

Jordon Wade, Steve W. Culman, Caley K. Gasch, Cristina Lazcano, Gabriel Maltais-Landry, Andrew J. Margenot, Tvisha K. Martin, Teal S. Potter, Wayne R. Roper, Matthew D. Ruark, Christine D. Sprunger, Matthew D. Wallenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Soil health is a promising lens through which to approach land management, having the potential to serve as a descriptor of biophysical processes and as an effective communication tool across stakeholders. However, this potential has been largely unrealized due to difficulty in quantitatively assessing soil health and linking those assessments to outcomes. Here we discuss many multiple persistent obstacles to quantitative soil health assessment and outline a suite of analyses to help address those obstacles. Specifically, we propose a quantitative approach to developing and selecting soil health indicators that help connect management-induced changes in soil health to specific outcomes (e.g., yield or water quality). To demonstrate the utility of this approach, we perform a small case study using published data from North Carolina and New York cropping systems. Additionally, we outline how this approach is scalable and flexible enough to integrate future soil health metric development. The proposed approach stands to provide a quantitative, empirical basis for future measurement, assessment, and interpretation of soil health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108710
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Latent variable analysis
  • Soil health assessment
  • Soil health indicator
  • Soil quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Soil Science


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