The State of the Soils Assessment and Planting Season Soil Health Resources

People sampling soil in field.

Planting season might be when you have the most attention on the condition of your soil: the amount of moisture and where it’s located, the level of nutrients, and what that might mean for your yield goals and application decisions.

With a focus on the long-term health and function of our soils, there are other types of testing for soil health indicators that have been promoted in recent years. It can be overwhelming to choose from the options available and to decipher results, especially if those tests were standardized in or for other regions. Luckily, our region has the Washington State Soil Health Initiative (WaSHI), which was created to address such issues.

The WaSHI “State of the Soils Assessment” assesses baseline soil health specific to Washington cropping systems and provides soil health testing resources. The Assessment is in its final year of soil testing and will provide cumulative data from over 1200 samples. These samples will provide each participating farmer with a personalized soil health report of the fields sampled in comparison to fields with similar crops and in similar regions. They will also help the industry move forward with more standardized methods of testing for soil health and soil health indicators.

Worm channels evident in bulk density sampling for the State of the Soils Assessment.
Worm channels evident in bulk density sampling for the State of the Soils Assessment. (Photo: Rachel Wieme)

You can read about all the continuing work in the recent update from WaSHI. Some of the highlights include:

  • Collecting mid-infrared spectra from archived samples with the support of Steve Culman and Haly Neely at WSU. With a more robust Washington library, spectral data can be used more accurately to infer soil properties, forgoing the need for intensive and expensive laboratory analysis.  
  • The development of Washington-specific decision tools and soil health benchmarks.

This project has been a joint effort between the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), WSU, local conservation districts, Extension, and producers. Follow WaSHI’s newsletter and blog for more updates on the project and soil health testing resources.

Rachel Wieme professional photo.

For questions or comments, contact Rachel via email at