More than one way to determine healthy soil…
…but the common denominator is healthy, disease-free crops and a cleaner environment.

Posted January 12, 2007

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I read with interest First season, first-hand soil health indicators by John and Aimee Good and would like to share my own list of bio-indicators for healthy soil:

  1. The soil should have a bulk density of less than 1kg/liter. Take a sample of soil that is ready for sowing; it will have appropriate soil porosity and moisture. Fill an empty 1-liter oil can with a sample of this soil, compacting it gently by maintaining a flat surface. Weigh the soil. If it weighs less than 1 kg, it is healthy soil. Dead soil will weigh more, even up to 2kg-3kg.
  2. Healthy living soil does not disintegrate in water. When the soil is dry, take a clump of it and place it in a glass of clear water. Healthy soil will retain its shape and will not crumble and disintegrate to make muddy water.
  3. Healthy soil will soak up rainwater (up to 100mm rain in one hour). Dead soil will soak only 10mm per hour and then allow surface runoff and soil erosion (this is also bad for groundwater reserves).
  4. Healthy soil will yield a bumper harvest with minimal external inputs and have minimal pest problems (the produce is nutritious, too).

I hope these bio-indicators will augment those given by The Rodale Institute.

Uday Bhawalkar, PhD
Pune, India