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Principles of soil management

Find out what makes soil and how it is classified. Discover common soil-related issues and how to manage them.

No single set of on-farm management practices can put soils in good health. Good soil husbandry requires a flexible approach that is likely to vary from field to field, and season to season. Our science-based guidance can aid with the management and maintenance of healthy soils.

Our guide looks at what makes soil and how it is classified. It also outlines soil-related issues and presents management solutions. Finally, the guide highlights wider reference sources, most of which can be accessed via this web page.

Available in print

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GREATsoils (AHDB information)

The GREATsoils web page is a gateway to all of our soil-related activity. From research and knowledge exchange to guidance, this page provides practical solutions and an insight into our research investment.

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thinksoils (soil assessment guide)

thinksoils is a practical guide to soil assessment. It aims to help farmers, land managers, government and non-government advisers to recognise problems with erosion and runoff from agricultural land.

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Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS)

Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS) is a straightforward and quick way to test soil structure in three simple steps – soil removal, soil assessment and soil scoring. The soil quality score produced can help highlight where soil structure needs to be improved. Ideally, assess each distinct soil layer separately and target the worst performing, ‘limiting’ layer first.

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UK soil information sources

Underlying geology determines the soil parent material and its properties, including soil depth, stoniness, mineralogy and texture. Soil maps, therefore, often closely resemble geological maps.

Geology of Britain viewer (Britain)

UK Soil Observatory (UK)

Soil Information for Scottish Soils (Scotland)

Macaulay Maps (Scotland)

Land Information System (England and Wales)

Soil Map of Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland)

Soil health components

In a healthy soil, the interactions between chemistry (pH, nutrients and contaminants), physics (soil structure and water balance) and biology (including earthworms, microbes and plant roots) are optimised for the conditions in that place.

Key soil management publications