1. What is soil?

Webster - the top layer of earth in which plants grow

GMS – soil is the media that God gave us to cultivate, care for and grows products to sustain our living here on Earth.

2. Soil Health – what is it?

Just as human health is not one function of the human body, soil health is not just one portion of the soil body.

Our physicians look at our whole body, height and weight, skin and hair, for the things he/she cannot see they rely on testing; blood chemistries, cell counts, urinalysis, and so on. The big plus is humankind can tell the physician what hurts or doesn’t feel good. With soil the doctor is not alerted until there are troubles; crop stress, erosion or compaction, or reduced yield.

Soil health is a group of observations that inform you of the overall condition of soil. A group of analysis that, when completed, gives the farmer a number that rates the overall “health” of the soil.

By itself the soil health screening is an overall picture of how well the soil will perform.

3. What does the soil health test consist of?

The program we at GMS Lab use includes:

  • Soil pH
  • Soluble Salts
  • Excess Lime Rating
  • Organic Matter, % LOI
  • CO2-C

Water soluble

  • Total Nitrogen
  • Organic Nitrogen
  • Total Organic Carbon


  • Nitrate
  • Ammonium
  • Inorganic Nitrogen
  • Inorganic (FIA) Phosphorus
  • Total (ICAP) Phosphorus
  • Organic Phosphorus
  • ICAP Potassium
  • ICSP Calcium
  • ICAP Aluminum
  • ICAP Iron


  • Organic C: Organic N
  • Nitrogen mineralization
  • Organic Nitrogen Reserve
  • Phosphorus Reserve
  • Phosphorus mineralization
  • Organic Phosphorus Reserve Al/Fe
  • Phosphorus Saturation Ca

Soil Health

  • Soil Health Calculation
  • Cover Crop Suggestion

4. Can GMS Lab do the “Soil Health Test”?

GMS Lab is capable of conducting the majority of analysis for the soil health profile; however, the USDA has certified only 5 laboratories in the United States to conduct analysis for their cost share programs. GMS Lab is working with one of them to provide you with the necessary documentation should you require it. Feel free to contact GMS Lab for additional information.

5. Do I need a “soil health test”?

The answer is another question.

Are you enrolled in the USDR/NRCS Soil Quality Enrichment Activity (SQL15) program?

If the answer is yes, then you are eligible for this enhancement to the program. This cost share program is available to you.

Central Illinois is blest to have abundant, deep, and fertile soils; soil health has not been an issue in the past, however, with the advent of repeated cropping on marginal soils there is a need for this program in certain areas. Those who have mined the soil of its natural fertility without thought of abuse and/or see these areas developing problems; this might be an option to consider. GMS Lab is ready to help you decide what is best for your cropping history.