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Biological and Biochemical Tests for Assessing Soil Fertility

Dick, W. A. and S. W. Culman . 2016. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc.


Assessing soil fertility has, as one of its primary goals, the ability to predict nutrient availability and uptake by a growing crop. It must be understood that there is not always a direct relationship between the soil's fertility level and the response of the crop to that fertility. This is because soil fertility must take into account the many factors of soil chemistry, physics, and biology and how these factors interact with each other and with the weather that occurs during crop growth. Crops are biological systems and soil fertility tests, based upon the soil's biology along with its biological components, provide a link between the soil's potential to supply nutrients and the crops demand for those nutrients. If properly matched, the use efficiency of supplemental nutrients can be increased. This review provides a current assessment of some of the biological and biochemical tests that are being developed and tested to assess soil fertility. Some of these tests are quite well developed and others are more speculative. In all cases, however, the focus is on letting the biology, along with its biochemical components, report to us the amount of nutrients released and the rate of that release to the growing crop.