Soil Health Assessment Guides

USDA-SARE Resources

Explore SARE’s Learning Center to find out more about soil health and other sustainable practices. Check out these excellent books on sustainable soil management (free downloads):

  • Building Soils for Better Crops – A practical guide to ecological soil management that provides step-by-step information on soil-improving practices as well as in-depth background—from what soil is, to the importance of organic matter.
  • Managing Cover Crops Profitably – Explores how and why cover crops work, and provides all the information needed to build cover crops into any farming operation.
  • Crop Rotation on Organic Farms – In-depth review of the applications of crop rotation-including improving soil quality and health, and managing pests, diseases, and weeds.
  • Steel in the Field – A Farmer’s Guide to Weed Management Tools

Recorded Presentations from Past Events

Eastern Nebraska Soil Health Conference

2023 Presentations

Welcome
Caro Córdova, UNL Assistant Professor and Statewide Soil Health Specialist and Katja Koehler-Cole, Soil Health Management Extension Educator

Moving forward requires looking backwards: Benefits of re-diversifying crop rotations in the Midwest
Marshal McDaniel, Associate Professor, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University

Interseeding cover crops into early-season corn and soybean - What we learned and next steps
Farmer panel with Chad Dane (Clay County) and Jay Goertzen (York County) moderated Jenny Rees, Nebraska Extension Educator

Practical tips for selecting and grazing forage cover crops
Mary Drewnoski, UNL Beef Systems Specialist

Nebraska farmer’s perspective on diverse crop rotations and intensification
Farmer panel with Angela Knuth (Saunders County), Garret Ruskamp (Cuming County), Kyle Riesen (Jefferson County), and Haldon Fugate (Gage County) moderated by Nathan Mueller, Nebraska Extension Educator

Emerging topics in soil health: 1. Biochar and it’s potential as a soil amendment
Britt Fossum, UNL Graduate Student

Emerging topics in soil health: 2. Opportunities for the perennial grain Kernza® - What it is and how it is grown
Roberta Rebesquini, UNL Graduate Student

Emerging topics in soil health: 3. What’s new in the cover crop industry
Davis Behle, Green Cover Seed

2022 Presentations

Recognizing Healthy Soil (Virtual Real-Time Presentation)
Aaron Hird, Nebraska NRCS State Soil Health Specialist

When is Manure the Right Solution for a Cropping System? (Virtual Real-Time Presentation)
Amy Schmidt, Professor, Biosystems Engineering Department, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Cover Crops and Crop Insurance
Cory Walters, Associate Professor, Department of Ag Economics, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Using Winter Hardy Small Cereals for Grazing and Silage
Mary Drewnoski, Associate Professor, Animal Science Department, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Making Soil Health Work for Your Operation
Chris Gaesser, Gaesser Farms, Iowa

Strategies to Use Cover Crops for Weed Suppression
Anita Dille, Professor, Department of Agronomy, Kansas State University

Planting Equipment for Cover Crops and Into Cover Crops
Paul Jasa, Nebraska Extension Engineer

Speaker Panel
Informal discussion with growers, landowners, and consultants

2021 Presentations

Introduction
Daren Redfearn, Professor, Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Optimizing your cover crop ROI
Rebecca Clay, Strategic Initiatives Agronomy Coordinator at Practical Farmers of Iowa

Experiences and Economics Using Cereal Rye as a Cover Crop
Chad Bell, Farmer

Using Aerial Imagery to Determine Cover Crop Impacts on Cash Crop Growth and Development
Andrea Basche, Associate Professor, Agronomy & Horticulture University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Soil Sensing and Soil Health
Kristen Veum, Research Soil Scientist at USDA-ARS Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research Unit, University of Missouri-Columbia

Pathway Toward a Healthy and Resilient Soil to Achieve Optimum Productivity and Environmental Quality: Cover Crops are Key
Jerry Hatfield, Retired Director, National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment

On-Farm Research of Incorporating Cover Crop into a 3 Crop Dryland Rotation
Ken Herz, Owner/Operator of Herz Land and Cattle

Speaker Panel Q/A

Recordings of previous Cover Crop and Soil Health Conference sessions are available for viewing on the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension channel on Mediahub.

Publications

Journal Articles
  • De Silva, S., Yapa, P. I., Mahatantila, K., Das, S., & Maharjan, B. (2023). Creeper legume, in conjunction with biochar, is a potential tool to minimize soil erosion. Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment, 6(2)https://doi.org/10.1002/agg2.20394
  • Neels, W., Jhala, A., Maharjan, B., Patel, S., Slator, G., & Iqbal, J. (2023). Nitrogen Source Affects In‐season Nitrogen Availability More Than Nitrification Inhibitor and Herbicide in a Fine‐textured Soil. 
  • A.O. Adesemoye, S. Kodati, D.B. Watts, B. Maharjan, 2023. Differential shifts in microbiome and pathogen populations associated with suppressive soil in long-term continuous corn field compared to rotation corn field,
  • Applied Soil Ecology, Volume 192, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apsoil.2023.105093.
  • Krupek, Fernanda Souza, et al. “Reflections for Enhancing Participatory Research and Outreach from a Multistakeholder Soil Health Program.” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, vol. 78, no. 6, 2023, pp. 118A-124A, https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.2023.0908A.
  • Bai G, Koehler-Cole K, Scoby D, Thapa VR, Basche A, Ge Y. Enhancing estimation of cover crop biomass using field-based high-throughput phenotyping and machine learning models. Front Plant Sci. 2024 Jan 8;14:1277672. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2023.1277672. PMID: 38259938; PMCID: PMC10800384.
  • Das, S., Liptzin, D., & Maharjan, B. (2023). Long-term manure application improves soil health and stabilizes carbon in continuous maize production system. Geoderma, 430, 116338. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoderma.2023.116338
  • Das, S., & Maharjan, B. (2022). Cropland Reference Ecological Unit: A land classification unit for comparative soil studies. Ecological Indicators, 144, 109468. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2022.109468
  • Ray JG, Das S, Sasidharan S and Thakur N (2022) Editorial: Soil biology for sustainable agriculture and environment. Front. Soil Sci. 2:947619. https://doi.org/10.3389/fsoil.2022.947619 
  • Das, S., Berns, K., McDonald, M., Ghimire, D., & Maharjan, B. (2022). Soil health, cover crop, and fertility management: Nebraska producers’ perspectives on challenges and adoption. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 77(2), 126-134. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.2022.00058
  • Maharjan, B., Das, S., & Acharya, B. S. (2020). Soil Health Gap: A concept to establish a benchmark for soil health management. Global Ecology and Conservation, e01116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e01116 
  • Krupek, F.S., Mizero, S., Redfearn, D., and Basche, A. 2022. Assessing how cover crops close the soil health gap at on-farm experiments. Agricultural and Environmental Letters. https://doi.org/10.1002/ael2.20088
  • Krupek, F.S., Redfearn, D., Eskridge, K.M. and Basche, A., 2022. Ecological intensification with soil health practices demonstrates positive impacts on multiple soil properties: A large-scale farmer-led experiment. Geoderma. 409, 115594. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoderma.2021.115594
  • Liebman, M., Basche, A., Huong, T.X., Weisberger, D.A. 2021. How can cover crops contribute to weed management? A modelling approach illustrated with rye (Secale cereale) and Amaranthus tuberculatus. Weed Research. https://doi.org/10.1111/wre.12508
  • Chatterjee, N., Archontoulis, S., Bastidas, A., Elmore, R., Proctor, C., Basche, A. 2020. Simulating alternative corn management for earlier cover crop introduction in corn-soybean rotation system. Agronomy Journal. https://doi.org/10.1002/agj2.20377
  • Nichols, V., Martinez-Feria, R., Weisberger, D., Carlson, S., Basso, B., Basche, A. 2020. Cover crops and weed suppression in the US Midwest: a meta-analysis and modeling study. Agricultural and Environmental Letters.5:e20022. https://doi.org/10.1002/ael2.20022
  • Wirth-Murray, M. and Basche, A. 2020. Stimulating soil health within Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 75(4): 88A-93A. https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.2020.0512A
  • Francis, C., Young, R., Wortman, S., Kaiser, M., and Basche, A. 2019. International topics increase global awareness in Midwest crops and soils courses. NACTA Journal. 63: 131-138.
  • Basche, A.D., DeLonge, M. 2019. Comparing infiltration rates in soils managed with conventional and alternative farming methods: a meta-analysis. PLoS ONE. 14(9) e0215702. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0215702
  • Maysoon, M., Qiao, X. and Maharjan, B. 2020. Soil Chemical Properties after 12 Years of tillage and Various crop rotation. Agronomy Journal.
  • Blanco, H., Creech, C., Easterly, A., Hergert, G., Nielsen, R., Lawrence, N., Kaiser, M. and Maharjan, B. 2020. Can Char Carbon Enhance Soil Properties and Crop Yields in Low-Carbon Soils? Insights after Two Years. Journal of Environmental Quality.
  • Vashisht, B.B., Maharjan, B., Sharma, S., and Kaur, S. 2020. Soil quality and its potential indicators under different land use systems in the Shivaliks of Indian Punjab. Sustainability 12, 3490, 1-13.
  • Panday, D., Mikha, M. M., Collins, H. P., Jin, V. L., Kaiser, M., Cooper, J., Malakar, A., and Maharjan, B. 2019. Optimum rates of surface applied coal char decreased soil ammonia volatilization loss. Journal of Environmental Quality. https://doi.org/10.1002/jeq2.20023 

Extension Publications (pending)