All farmers these days are interested in improving soil health, but not everyone may know exactly what that means or takes. Dr. Brian Gardener, Ag Spectrum Technical Director, says it’s important to know the basics of soil health and how farm management decisions can impact your soil and your yields.


“Soil Health is, simply put, the ability to produce marketable outputs with minimal inputs. It's very important for people to understand that multi-dimensional property is dynamic, it changes over time and it's dependent on environmental conditions like temperature, moisture and even the microorganisms and worms and all other life that's present there.”

Gardener said soil health goes beyond simply assessing a soil test and deciding your soil needs more nitrogen to be healthier.

“Absolutely. There's so much of farm management decisions that impact soil health. Whether you are using a particular input, the rate, the timing, the placement, all of these will affect soil health in that location, and how the crop can respond to it.”

For farmers, he said this means optimizing soil health really means maximizing return per bushel or unit produced.

“They're going to use certain inputs to stimulate crop growth, but ultimately what they're trying to do is to manage the environmental conditions, the physical, chemical and biological properties of soils, that have to be balanced to determine the productivity of that crop in any given growing year. Choices like herbicides, fertilizer applications, livestock pasturing and crop rotation, all can affect the soil's ability to produce and support life throughout the growing season.”

Gardener says its important farmers know that each decision they make regarding their crop and their fields can impact soil health.

“Well, at Ag Spectrum, we really aim to teach our customers about how different farm management choices affect those different soil properties. By giving them the whys of responses of soils to their choices, they can make better and more profitable choices that improve, rather than degrade soil health.”

Ag Spectrum’s Maximum Farming System encompasses soil health. Gardener said using a science-based system approach allows farmers to maximize soil health and profitability.

“Soil health and plant nutrition are really central to the operation of the system. It includes crop inputs, equipment, management, and carbon management, all together to lead towards the most desirable outputs which of course is farm profitability, as I mentioned before, our management decisions that in fact soil health are really about maximizing return on investment.”

Click Here to learn more and to contact a local Ag Spectrum representative.

If you have a story idea for the PNW Ag Network, call (509) 547-1618, or e-mail

More From PNW Ag Network