Empirical approach for developing production environment soil health goals, New York, USA
Defining quantitative soil health goals can support efforts to improve soil quality and meet broader ecosystem services goals, while simultaneously helping field-level benchmarking of soil health on farms. But soil health metrics in agricultural systems require edaphic context, notably climate, soil type (soil texture and classification), as well as cropping system. Soil samples (n=1,328) from New York State (USA) with Land Resource Regions (LRR), texture, and cropping system information were analyzed for eight physical and biological soil health indicators (soil organic matter, permanganate-oxidizable carbon, respiration, protein, available water capacity, wet aggregate stability, and penetration resistance from 0-15 and 15-45 cm), and population distribution functions were determined. Production environment soil health (PESH) goals were derived for four soil texture groups and six cropping systems by proposing the 75th and 90th percentile for each factorial class. Finer-textured soils and Pasture and Mixed Vegetable cropping systems generally had the highest values for soil health goals, followed by Dairy Crop and Orchard systems, then Annual Grain, and lastly Processing Vegetable systems. Long Island (LRR-S) had soil organic matter PESH goals that were on average 0.7 % lower than the rest of New York State (LRRs-L&R). This implies that regional PESH goals within a state or region may be warranted if edaphic context is considerably different.