Checking the Pulse of Your Soil

Have you checked the health of your soil lately? Checking respiration of your soil is like checking your pulse — indicating your health level, but not what may be impeding or stimulating it, writes soybean agronomist Dan Davidson on

Checking the health of your soil is easy. You probably are checking a few things already and don’t know it. When you run a soil test and measure pH and organic matter you know some of the elements that contribute to soil health.


Soil health is determined by chemical, physical and biological properties.

Some of the most common chemical soil indicators are organic matter, pH, salinity and electroconductivity (EC). A soil laboratory can run these tests.

Some common physical tests are porosity, bulk density, water infiltration and aggregate stability. Unfortunately, these must be done in the field, either by you or someone you hire. Field kits can be assembled to measure these physical indicators, but tests are a bit tedious. If the soil is impeded physically, you can’t optimize biology.