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Characterization of soil quality: Physical and chemical criteria

  • M.A. Arshad (a1) and G.M. Coen (a2)

Abstract

The impact of soil degradation on human welfare and the global environment presents a major challenge. A significant decline in soil quality has occurred worldwide through adverse changes in its physical, chemical and biological attributes and contamination by inorganic and organic chemicals. There is a need to develop criteria to evaluate soil quality so that the progress of any corrective action required by the international community can be monitored.

There currently are no generally accepted criteria to evaluate changes in soil quality. This lack impedes the design and evaluation of meaningful soil management programs. This paper examines the principal physical and chemical attributes that can serve as indicators of a change in soil quality under particular agroclimatic conditions. Proposed indicators include soil depth to a root restricting layer, available water-holding capacity, bulk density/penetration resistance, hydraulic conductivity, aggregate stability, organic matter, nutrient availability/retention capacity, pH, and where appropriate, electrical conductivity and exchangeable sodium. We also discuss the justification for selecting these key attributes, their measurement, critical limits for monitoring changes in soil productivity, and future research needs in soil quality.

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Keywords

Characterization of soil quality: Physical and chemical criteria

  • M.A. Arshad (a1) and G.M. Coen (a2)

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