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Tufts OpenCourseware
Authors: Kathleen Merrigan, Ph.D., William Lockeretz, Ph.D.


What is Soil Quality? USDA NRCS (2001).

Conservation Tillage Fact Sheet: Soil Quality Indicators for Whole-farm Management in the Central Great Plains. R.Bowman et al. (2004).

Soil Quality – Agronomy. Technical Notes. USDA – NRCS

  • No.16: Interpreting the soil conditioning index
  • No.2: Conservation crop rotation effects on soil quality
  • No.6: Legumes and soil quality

Key Questions

What is soil quality?

  • What is soil quality?
  • How do we compare inherent and dynamic soil quality?
  • What are the indicators of soil quality?
  • How does soil organic matter influence the physical, chemical, and biological indicators for soil quality?
  • What is the relationship between bulk density and soil compaction?
  • What is the relationship between soil structure and water holding capacity?
  • What are the good cultivation practices for managing soil quality? How are they useful in maintaining or enhancing soil quality?

Conservation Tillage Fact Sheet

  • What three factors greatly influence soil quality?
  • What are the important soil quality indicators? How are they related to soil quality?
  • What are the field indices for soil quality? Why are they important?
  • What are the recommendations for improving soil quality?
  • How do we link conservation tillage to the indicators mentioned in the reading?

Soil Quality: Agronomy - Technical Notes

  • How do field operations and the erosion factor affect organic matter content in soil?
  • What are the other factors that affect organic matter content in soil?
  • When is the calculated SCI less reliable? What other factors would one consider if the goal was to improve the soil quality?
  • True or false: When SCI is near 0, the farmer need not worry too much as it means that the organic matter content in the soil is being maintained.
  • What factors should one consider while deciding on crop rotation?
  • What is the effect of incorporating organic residue into soils through tillage operations using a moldboard plow?
  • Why does using a sod crop in rotation reduce compaction and soil erosion?
  • What are the benefits of including legumes in crop rotation?