You can see there are quite a few soil tests to choose from. You are not expected to do all of them in every field. We have included a number of different tests so that people can choose the tests that work best for them on their farm.
The Basic Tests
However we have found 3 tests that most farmers find useful, easy-ish and don’t require much equipment. We advise that you do these 3 tests as a minimum across your fields to start to be able to meaningfully understand your soils and the effects management practices are having.
1.0 Earthworm count
Want to do a few more tests?
The extra tests you pick are best chosen based on any management objectives you have. For example, in the case study for Fidelity she wants to ‘improve grasses and forage for animals’. Therefore we would definitely recommend doing either 2.2 sward stick or 2.3 plate meter to monitor the amount of pasture her fields are producing. So ask yourself, why am I doing these tests? why do I want to improve my soil health? and the answers to those questions will help guide which additional tests to do.
Some of our favourites are:
1.4 Spading Ease
1.6 VESS (this one takes a bit of practising)
The VESS test is the only one that can be harder at first because you have to get used to the scoring system based on what the soil looks like in your hands (all the detail are on the VESS page). But we have found that after doing it 3 times, in different fields it becomes quite easy and obvious.
We also have to remember that the main person benefiting from these tests is ourselves, so don’t be overly optimistic or kid yourself that the soil is better than it is, or “there are more species really” :). Be true to what you see right then and there.
Our experience so far has mainly been on pasture and in orchards. If you find different set of tests works better for you then please let us know and we would love to feature that here.