Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: December 1, 2009
Publication Date: June 1, 2011
Citation: Karlen, D.L., Wienhold, B.J., Kang, S., Zobeck, T.M., Andrews, S.S. 2011. Indices for soil management decisions. In: Sauer, T.S., Hatfield, J.L., editors. Soil Management: Building a Stable Base for Agriculture. Madison, WI. American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America, Inc. p. 39-50. Technical Abstract: Indices are needed for periodic assessments of soil resource condition at all scales – within a lawn, field, farm, watershed, county, state, nation, or the world. There are several types of indices including scorecards, simulation models, decision aides, and assessment frameworks. This chapter examines the concept of soil quality and several of the tools (e.g., Soil Conditioning Index (SCI) and Soil Management Assessment Framework (SMAF)) that have been developed during the past decade to help guide and improve soil management decision making. The history and evolution of the soil quality concept are briefly reviewed and readers are introduced to some of the tools developed for assessing or indexing soil quality. In addition to the SCI and SMAF, information regarding the Agroecosystem Performance Assessment Tool (AEPAT) and the Cornell Soil Health Test are briefly reviewed. Techniques being used to develop scoring curves for these index values are presented, followed by current examples of how these tools are being evaluated and verified. Current developments and future opportunities to use indices for more comprehensive soil management assessments are reviewed. Successful development of indices such as the SMAF will certainly help improve soil management and could easily provide a bridge between soil science research and the land management decisions that are crucial for sustaining global soil resources.