contributed by Karen Colson and Jason Karl
Soil Properties – Quantitative
Description and Uses
The Soil Stability Test provides information about the integrity of soil aggregates, degree of soil structural development, and erosion resistance. It also reflects soil biotic integrity, because the organic matter that binds soil particles together must constantly be renewed by plant roots and soil organisms. This test measures the soil’s stability when exposed to rapid wetting. Soil aggregate stability is affected by texture (soil particle size) and biotic and mineral constituents that may be present, so it is important to limit comparisons to similar soils that have similar amounts of sand, silt and clay. This method requires a soil stability kit.
This test should be used in combination with vegetation measurements, and stratified by vegetative cover. Herrick et al. 2005 suggest using these indicators together with the indicators from Line-point intercept and Gap intercept to help determine whether observed erosion changes are due to loss of cover, changes in vegetation spatial distribution or reduced soil stability.
Advantages and Limitations
The Soil stability test is a relatively simple test that is sensitive to complex changes in physical, chemical and biological processes, which are the processes that “glue” soil particles together. It permits immediate interpretation and facilitates additional sampling when results are unclear. In addition, it is fairly rapid and together with indicators calculated from the Line-point and Gap intercept measurements, can generate information relevant to the infiltration capacity of the soil.
Technical and Application References
Printable data forms for the soil stability method can be downloaded from
Electronic data forms can be found at the following sites
- Soil stability data can be recorded directly into the Rangeland Database in the field.
- An Excel version of the soil stability method data form that automatically calculates cover percentages can be found at the Jornada Experimental Range Monitoring and Assessment Site.
- An version of the soil stability Excel form that is compatible with electronic PDAs can also be downloaded from the Jornada Experimental Range Monitoring and Assessment Site
Soil stability kits and impact penetrometers can be purchased from the following vendors:
- Synergy Resource Solutions, Jack Alexander
Synergy Resource Solutions, Inc.
1755 Hymer Ave.
Sparks, NV 89431
- Darbyshire Machine, Jack Darbyshire
501 W. O’Hara Road
Anthony, NM 88021