Principles to improve soil health: Chemical

pH levels are very important in promoting soil health. Find out about this and other factors, including parent materials and trace minerals.

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Action plan

Key principles for improving soil health:

  • Maintain optimum pH
  • Apply nutrients (right amounts, in the right place, at the right time)
  • Know soil textures and minerals (buffer capacity)

Soil parent material

Parent material controls the texture and the types of minerals present in the soil.

Texture determines the soil’s ability to hold onto lime or other nutrients (buffer capacity).

Some nutrients, especially trace elements, are from the parent material, whereas others may be missing completely.

It is important to know the soil’s chemical make-up to optimise inputs.

Soil pH

Maintain soil pH at the optimum level. The optimum level depends on the crop.

However, under pH 5.5, soil biological activity tends to slow down, and root growth and function become inhibited.

The pH also affects other soil properties, such as nutrient availability.

The application of lime is the main way to raise soil pH.

Reducing soil pH over naturally alkaline parent materials (chalk and limestone) is not often practised at the field scale.

However, relatively high pH soils affect nutrient availability, especially the reduction of phosphorus and many micronutrients.

Useful links

Read more about pH and soil texture

See a summary of the key soil health principles for sandy, medium and heavy (clay) soils

Learn how to manage pH with AHDB’s Nutrient Management Guide (RB209)

Read the Principles of soil management guide

If you would like to order a hard copy of Principles of soil management, please use our online order form or call 0247 799 0069.

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Amanda Bennett

Senior Environment Manager (Soil Health & RB209)

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