Participatory Evaluation of Farmer Based Soil Quality Assessment Cards

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1999: $49,997.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $5,275.00
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Daniel McGrath
Oregon State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: wheat
  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, cucurbits, onions, peas (culinary), sweet corn


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, farmer to farmer, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, risk management
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health


    A team of 30 Oregon farmers and University faculty members developed the Oregon soil quality assessment card designed to assist farmers to systematically evaluate the physical and biological properties of soil that are affected by tillage, irrigation, cover crops and other soil management practices. The card is meant to compliment the soil chemical fertility tests that are commonly used by Oregon farmers. Soil Quality Assessment Cards were also developed in 14 other states.

    Over a period of three years, 800 sets of soil assessment cards and the soil quality card guides were distributed to Oregon farmers by mail and two soil quality field days, and to agricultural professionals at a soil quality workshops. To assess the usage and the value of the Oregon soil quality assessment card, a regional mail-out survey of Oregon farmers and a national phone survey of agricultural professionals involved in the development of soil quality assessment cards were conducted in 2001 and 2002. The results of both surveys were similar. The soil quality assessment cards were useful as educational and teaching tools. Very few farmers used the cards on specific fields to make quantitative assessments of soil quality. Adoption by farmers of the soil quality assessment cards as long term record keeping tools was essentially zero percent. There was great reluctance among farmers to use the soil quality assessment cards for record keeping purposes because they were not convinced that maintaining soil quality records would lead to better farming practices, healthier soils, and greater farm profits. The most important use of the soil quality cards is an educational tool to introduce and teach the concepts of soil quality. The soil quality cards should be redesigned to be used solely as educational tools for use in field days and workshops, and not as record keeping tools.

    Project objectives:

    This objectives of this study were to: (1) measure the level of adoption of the SQA-Card and the impacts it made on card users; (2) facilitate farmers' learning about soil quality and enhance their capacity to make sustainable soil management decisions; and (3) improve the design of current SQA-Cards and refine the participatory process to develop future soil quality assessment tools.

    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.