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Simple Soil Tests You Can Carry Out

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Why wait for a lab, why pay for soil tests when YOU can do them on the spot. Whether you are just starting your regen ag journey or want to monitor your progress, see 15 tests YOU can do in the paddock.

There are also quite a few things or 'tests' that you can establish for yourself - the reasons for doing these will become more evident as we progress. However, there is no one test that can be carried out or measurement taken to suddenly achieve soil health. Indeed many of the things advocated by the scientific community and agricultural authorities as well as chemical and some farm machinery companies in the past, even if well intended, have combined to cause much of the soil degradation that is so prevalent today.

There are however simple ‘tests’ that a farmer personally can readily carry out at various points on the farm without expensive equipment or having to send samples to a laboratory for ‘analysis’ to see if the soil is healthy or has any soil issues likely to contribute to ongoing soil degradation. It is strongly recommended that as many of the following tests as possible be carried out in the near future and the results recorded including photos where possible. These tests can be repeated periodically to monitor progress.

NOTE: Click the > to open up the content for each test the click again to close (or leave open).

Soil Structure Test:

Soil structure is important on so many fronts. Take a big shovelful of soil and look if the soil has a good crumb structure, that is, does it have lots of aggregate formations and air space. If not and it has lots of large hard clumps or clods, it is lacking in health.

Soil Smell Test:

Extent of Root Growth Test:

Plant Root Structure and Depth Test:

Earthworm Count Test:

Earthworm Food Test:

Soil Colour Test:

Cow Pat Condition / Dung Beetle / Dung Worm Activity Test:

Sub-soil Compaction Test:

Rainfall / Moisture Penetration Test:

Soil Coverage and Plant Diversity Test:

Soil Minerals Test:

Soil Acidity Test:

Microbe Presence Test:

Brix Test:

It is also worthwhile checking soil temperature as the seasons change not just to give you some idea of whether microbes are active as noted above in the 'Microbe Presence Test', but also to show the difference in temperature between soil which is bare or has little cover and soil which has a good soil armour - see 'Soil Coverage and Plant Diversity Test' above.

Armed with the results from these tests, you will now have an idea of how much potential there is to regenerate your farm and how long it might take. Later you will get an idea of what measures you could take to start bringing life back into your soil.

Useful Testing / Monitoring Equipment

The following equipment will be helpful to test / monitor the health of your soil. They are comparatively inexpensive. Most can be purchased on line or from a rural supplier near you.

  • Soil thermometer (Sub-soil temperature)

  • Refractometer (Brix Reading)

  • Penetrometer (Soil Compaction)

  • Soil Sampling Probe (Soil Profile)

  • Soil Microbiome Meter / EC meter (Electrical Conductivity, microbe presence)

  • Shovel (to check soil structure, root development, earthworms etc)

  • Metal / PVC tube about 100mm diameter and 100-150mm long (water infiltration)

  • Microscope / magnifying glass / camera (with zoom to view photos close up)

  • And a good nose to smell the soil!!!

Soil Sampling Probe and Soil Thermometer in Action during Early Phase of Regeneration

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1 comentario

Sue Cote'
Sue Cote'
18 mar 2023

Very helpful! I'm currently in a few courses, have a excellent microscope and found wonderful sight is full of very relevant and useful information. It's a breath of fresh air to see someone be so helpful that is motivated by their obvious love of our precious soil. It is what we can offer as a gift for future generations. Thank you for being you and a positive insightful voice for the soil:).

Kind regards

Sue Cote'

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