Improving Soil Health: What to Measure and Why

Learn about the current state of soil health assessments in Midwest

June 8, 2022, 12:17 pm | Liz Ripley

AMES, Iowa – The Iowa Learning Farms conservation webinar taking place June 15 at noon CDT will feature Matt Ruark, professor and extension state specialist in soil biology and fertility at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Abigail Augarten, research assistant in the Nutrient Cycling and Agroecosystems Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Ruark’s research program focuses on nitrogen, manure and cover crop management. Augarten is currently conducting on-farm research connecting pasture management to soil health.

Matt Ruark.Iowa Learning Farms is an Iowa State University Extension and Outreach conservation and water quality education program.

In the webinar, “Soil Health Management and Measurement across Agricultural Systems in the Midwest,” Ruark and Augarten will discuss the current state of soil health assessments, why they are important to agriculture and what more could be done. They will also highlight recent developments related to soil health management and measurement across different production systems in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Drawing on these new approaches, the team will provide insights into how soil assessments should be approached in the future.

“Every farmer knows that soil health is an important component of success, but they are often unsure which practices will have the biggest impacts and what exactly should be measured,” said Ruark. “While we do not have answers in hand for all these questions, we do have a much better grasp of what a modern soil health measurement system looks like and how collected data can instill confidence in soil health practice decision making. Farmers, consultants, retailers and agency staff attending this webinar will take away a great understanding of what exactly to measure for their soil — and why.”

Participants in Iowa Learning Farms Conservation Webinars are encouraged to ask questions of the presenters. People from all backgrounds and areas of interest are encouraged to join.

Webinar access instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before noon CDT June 15:

  • Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: Or, go to and enter meeting ID 364 284 172.
  • Or, join from a dial-in phone line by dialing +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923 with meeting ID 364 284 172.
  • The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time.
  • A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit has been applied for. Those who participate in the live webinar are eligible. Information about how to apply to receive the CEU will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Upcoming webinars in the series

  • June 22: Chad J. Penn, USDA-ARS
  • June 29: Vince Sitzmann, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
  • July 6: Jane Frankenberger, Purdue University
  • July 13: Mike Castellano, Iowa State University

Shareable photo: Matt Ruark.

About the Authors: 

Liz Ripley

Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks!