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Soil Health


This Soil Health platform provides information and resources from WSU and its partners on managing key soil health challenges in Washington cropping systems and soil health projects and events going on statewide. Check back here or follow us on social media for new activities through the WA Soil Health Initiative and for updates on upcoming events!

Bubble diagram showing Soil Health surrounded by Resilience, Crop production, Biological activity, Environmental sustainability, Self-maintenance.


Soil health, like human health, describes the ability of a system to continually perform key functions that contribute to agricultural and environmental sustainability and productivity. The term “health” recognizes the living nature of soils and the importance of soil organisms in driving these functions.

We expect healthy soils to be resilient against disturbances such as flooding, drought, or high winds; to support crop production with suitable nutrient, moisture, and physical conditions; to support beneficial biological activity that decomposes crop residues, cycles nutrients, forms soil structure, and helps fight disease; to contribute to environmental sustainability by filtering pollutants and reducing run-off; and to be, for the most part, self-maintaining as a living system with continuous nutrient cycling and soil regeneration.


Washington Soil Health Initiative logoA host of indicators are currently available to assess soil health; however, our understanding of the relationship between these indicators and plant production and environmental outcomes is incomplete. To address these knowledge gaps, better understand linkages, and provide better guidance to stakeholders, we are embarking on the Washington Soil Health Initiative (WaSHI). This initiative is an ambitious plan that funds research, extension, and demonstration of soil health best management practices through a network of long-term agroecological research and extension (LTARE) sites across Washington state’s diverse agricultural systems. Learn more on on the WaSHI website.


tractor graphic implying compaction


Compaction results from loss of soil pore space, often due to traffic from heavy equipment, particularly when the soil is wet.
graphic denoting erosion


Fertile topsoil loss through wind and water erosion is one of the greatest challenges in Washington agriculture.
uneven balance with N and P on pans.

Nutrient Imbalances

Nutrient imbalances refer to situations when one or more essential plant nutrients are either deficient or available in excess of what plants take up at a given time.
Lemon graphic denoting acidification


Soil acidification is when soil pH gets lower (below pH 7) over time. It occurs naturally as soils weather but can be exacerbated with continuous use of ammonium-based fertilizers.
graphic of leaf with spots

Pests and pathogens

Soilborne fungal and bacterial diseases along with pests, such as parasitic nematodes, are a huge management challenge for Washington producers.
salt shaker graphic.

Salinity and Sodicity

Soil salinization occurs as salts (e.g. calcium, potassium, magnesium) accumulate in the soil, particularly in irrigated regions with low rainfall and high evapotranspiration.