Soil health assessment for sustainable land use and profitable crop production in the Northeastern USA

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $249,203.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
George Abawi
Cornell University, NYSAES

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, oats, potatoes, rye, soybeans, spelt, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Vegetables: beans, beets, cabbages, carrots, onions, peas (culinary), peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, weed ecology
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Intensive crop production in the Northeast region has often resulted in soil degradation, contributing to reduced crop yield, increased production inputs and lower farm profitability, thus there is increased interest in soil health. Our soil health team has made significant progress in increasing soil health literacy, developing a cost-effective protocol for soil health assessment, facilitating soil health demonstrations by growers, and promoting multi-disciplinary research and outreach. To build on this progress and momentum, our team of growers, extension educators and academic staff in New York, Maryland, and Vermont aim to continue to network as a team to provide soil health programs and research collaborations in the NE region. We plan to reach 1500+ producers via surveys, participatory trainings, field days, annual meetings and web-based and written materials. The soil health status of 50+ fields in MD, VT, and NY will be assessed annually using the developed assessment protocol. The team will also investigate the mechanisms contributing to improved soil health status by the implementing the recommended management practices (rotation, cover crops, tillage systems, etc.) and evaluating visible-near infrared sensing as a potential rapid assessment tool of soil health. Another major objective is to develop a web-based, accessible database for NE soils and decision making software to assist in selecting what to test and interpreting the results. Our final targets will be that 200+ growers will have assessed the soil health status of their fields and 100+ will have implemented a long-term soil health management program. Targets will be documented by mailed surveys, personal interviews and on-farm visits. The direct beneficiaries are vegetable, cash grain, and dairy producers, whereas indirect beneficiaries are rural communities and consumers.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    • Of the 1500 growers that will be reached in New York, Vermont and Maryland; 200 will have their soils assessed using the developed soil health protocol in New York and Maryland, and 100 growers will implement a long-term improved and sustainable soil management program (including reduced tillage system(s), improved crop rotation(s), new cover crops and/or compost and green manure applications).A web-accessible database of regional soil health data will be made available for researchers and extension educators to conduct query-based research and data analysis. Decision support software will be developed to aid in: (i) determining an optimal site-specific set of soil physical, chemical and biological parameters to test, (ii) interpreting the results obtained and, (iii) providing guidelines on needed interventions.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.