State of the Soils Assessment

Developing a baseline of soil health in Washington

To date, nearly 1,000 soil samples and management surveys across 50 different cropping systems have been collected as a part of the state of the soils assessment. This project is being led by WSDA and WSU, with support from staff, students, conservation districts, and agricultural professionals throughout Washington.

The State of the Soils Assessment has four primary goals:

  • SOS goal assess baseline.png_1685561482

    Assess baseline soil health in Washington

  • SOS goal assess baseline.png_1685561482 (1)

    Understand how climate, crop type, and management impact soil health

  • SOS goal assess baseline.png_1685561482 (2)

    Develop cost-effective ways for producers to assess their own soil health

  • WaSHI goal increase awareness.png_1685559988 (1) (3)

    Develop crop-specific decision-support tools

Customized soil health reports

To build a better understanding of soil health indicators with producers, each participating producer receives an individualized soil health report, which compares their soils from those in similar crops, regions, and across the entire project and provides a description of each soil health indicator measured. Since 2020, more than 300 participating farmers have received customized soil health reports, intended to help them access, understand, and translate their soil data into informed management decisions.

These individualized reports support soil data democracy and empower farmers to engage with their data by:

  • Providing a high-level overview of soil health in agriculture.
  • Synthesizing the latest research on soil health indicators with short descriptions and graphics.
  • Offering context for interpreting soil health indicators (e.g., more is better, less is better, optimal range).
  • Describing how to make the most of soil testing.
  • Plotting the sampled fields on a map.
  • Visualizing results in both table and plot formats.
  • Comparing the farmer’s results with others in the same crop, region, and project.
  • Providing the report in two formats:
    • An interactive HTML file that can be opened in a computer browser.
    • A static Microsoft Word document that can be printed or viewed on a computer.
text and images on a page.
{soils} R package logo

{soils} R package

Understanding soil data is crucial for making informed management decisions. However, soil health outcomes are determined by many variables, and the science surrounding soil health measurements is ever evolving. This makes it difficult to present soil data in an easy-to-understand way. Enter {soils}, a new R package developed to effectively visualize and describe soil health data.

Resources

  • {soils}
    • R package website includes primers on the tools used (i.e., Quarto, Markdown), tutorials, function reference guide, and example reports.
    • GitHub repository includes the source code and files.
    • 20-minute talk about creating the reports with R and Quarto at posit::conf(2023), a data science conference.
    • Blog post featuring the {soils} package.
  • Learn R

View an interactive map of the State of the Soils Assessment

Click here to open the map in a new window

Resources about the State of the Soils Assessment

a video about understanding soil health tests.

How to Interpret Soil Tests

Dani Gelardi discusses how soil testing has changed over time—to become more comprehensive, but also more confusing!

a person in a field with a soil probe.

WSDA Soil Sampling Equipment and Supply List

Find the 2024 WSDA Soil Sampling Equipment Checklist

a person holding a soil probe towards the camera.

WSDA Soil Sampling Videos

Find videos about soil sampling created by the Washington Department of Agriculture.