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Soil health describes the capacity of a soil to be used productively without adversely affecting its future productivity, the ecosystem or the environment. Soil health emphasizes the integration of biological with chemical and physical measures of soil quality that affect farmers' profits and the environment.
Soil health deals with both inherent and dynamic soil quality. Inherent soil quality relates to the natural (genetic) characteristics of the soil, such as its texture. These qualities are the result of soil-forming factors, are generally represented in soil surveys and cannot be changed easily.
In contrast, dynamic soil quality components -- such as compaction, biological functioning, root proliferation, etc. -- are readily affected by management practices. The dynamic component is of most interest to growers because good management allows the soil to come to its full potential.
The inherent and dynamic soil quality components do interact, however, as some soil types are much more susceptible to degradation and unforgiving of poor management than others.
Soil health is important to farmers and growers because they need to know if their soil will continue to sustain profitable yields, and to help reduce long-term risks to environmental quality.
The Cornell Soil Health Program Work Team has developed soil measurements to help monitor the state of soil health both in space and time. These indicators can measure soil improvement or degradation resulting from different management practices and also the long term changes in soil health under given management practices.