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Evaluation of soil quality
Our ability to assess soil quality is complicated by many physical, chemical, and biological processes and their interactions in time, space, and intensity. It is not usually possible to directly measure the rate of soil processes; instead they can be inferred by measuring specific soil properties that are indicative of these rates. These measurements then can be used in simulation models to predict future changes in process rates and, in turn, soil quality. The properties measured are termed indicators of soil quality. The best soil quality indicators are those that integrate the combined effects of several properties and processes.
(from: Carter et al. 1997)
Source: NRCS Art by Scott Patton, USDA NRCS http://photogallery.nrcs.usda.gov/