The soil health scorecard

The scorecard provides a framework to monitor soil health on a rotational basis.

Get the soil health scorecard for England and Wales

Get the soil health scorecard for Scotland

Scorecard introduction

The Excel-based tool uses soil analysis results for core soil health indicators and compares them to typical ranges for UK soil types and climate regions (benchmarks).

Scorecard indicators

  1. Soil structure – using VESS (Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure).
  2. pH.
  3. Extractable nutrients (phosphorus, potassium and magnesium).
  4. Earthworms.
  5. Soil organic matter.

A completed scorecard automatically produces a 'traffic-light' snapshot of soil health to guide your management decisions.

Walkthrough video (1/4): introduction

Scorecard data

The tool uses two types of data:

  1. Site information, such as the sample location and date.
  2. Soil assessment results for the indicators.

Walkthrough video (2/4): data entry

Scorecard results

A scorecard, populated with soil assessment data, automatically assigns a status to each soil health indicator:

  • Investigate (red)
  • Review (amber)
  • Monitor (green)

The tool also features management tips to help you improve the overall condition of your land.

Walkthrough video (3/4): results

Scorecard in Scotland

Although many elements are the same as the scorecard for England and Wales, Scotland has different approaches to nutrient analysis and soil organic matter benchmarking.

This video describes these differences and demonstrates the James Hutton Institute’s SoilFinder database, which can be used to help interpret soil organic matter (loss on ignition) results.

Get the soil health scorecard for Scotland

SoilFinder database

How to use the scorecard in Scotland

Soil assessment resources


See our guidance on how to conduct routine assessments for the soil health indicators used in the scorecard.

The routine assessments to help you understand your soils better

How to perform a visual evaluation of soil structure (VESS)

How to measure soil nutrients, pH and organic matter

How to count earthworms

Examples of on-farm monitoring of soil health

Field demonstration

Watch the 'How to assess soil health on farms' video for top tips on how to take representative soil samples for assessment (in an arable field, after harvest). 

Featuring, Elizabeth Stockdale, NIAB Head of Farming Systems Research, the video also covers the interpretation of scorecard results.


Our protocols documents provide detailed guidance on soil sampling and the benchmarks for the soil health indicators.

Due to variations in the approaches required across GB regions, protocols for England and Wales, and Scotland are available.

Soil health scorecard protocol and benchmarking (England and Wales)

Soil health scorecard protocol and benchmarking (Scotland)

Notes on benchmarks

The benchmarks are applicable to mineral topsoils under crops and lowland grassland. They are not applicable to upland grass/semi-natural systems or peaty/organic soils (those with more than 20% organic matter to 40cm depth).

Optional indicators (microbial activity)

The size and activity of soil microbial biomass can be used to help indicate soil-health status.

The standard assessment method uses hazardous reagents (chloroform extraction) and is not offered by the main commercial laboratories in the UK.

The scorecard is based on two alternatives (already used in commercial laboratories).

Potentially mineralisable nitrogen (PMN): a measure of the amount of nitrogen readily decomposed under controlled (anaerobic) conditions.

Solvita® respiration burst (CO2-C): a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released when a dried soil is rewetted.

Learn more about these biological assessment approaches

Walkthrough video (4/4): on-farm action

Field demonstration

Scorecard research

In the 'How a soil health scorecard is revolutionising field experiments' video, Anne Bhogal, an ADAS soil scientist, explains how the scorecard was used in long-term experiments to reveal the influence of organic materials, cultivations, drainage and pH on soil health.

Find out about the research behind the soil health scorecard

Note: The research investigated many biological indicators, including potentially mineralisable nitrogen (PMN), microbial respiration (CO2 burst), mesofauna, nematodes and DNA measures of microbial communities.

Assessing soil health using an integrated approach

Scorecard reconnects farmers with soil (CPM article)

Plough vs direct drill: Soil health impact revealed by ‘scorecard’ (news item)

Soil structure and earthworms masterclass

Research in action