The soil health scorecard
The scorecard provides a framework to monitor soil health on a rotational basis.
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).
- Soil structure – using VESS (Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure).
- Extractable nutrients (phosphorus, potassium and magnesium).
- 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
The tool uses two types of data:
- Site information, such as the sample location and date.
- Soil assessment results for the indicators.
Walkthrough video (2/4): data entry
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.
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.
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.
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.
Walkthrough video (4/4): on-farm action
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.
Note: The research investigated many biological indicators, including potentially mineralisable nitrogen (PMN), microbial respiration (CO2 burst), mesofauna, nematodes and DNA measures of microbial communities.
Research in action