Soil testing is desired in many scenarios and is important for checking the health of your soil or the sturdiness of the land for development. Soil testing can be used to check your soil microbial health, for optimized crop production, checking soil health after a fire, or climate change research. Soil testing looks at the phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) and the neutral lipid fatty acids (NLFA). Phospholipid fatty acid is analyzed in soil testing to monitor the fatty acids in the microbial mass that is “living” and also looks for arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) hyphae. Analyzing neutral lipid fatty acid identifies fatty acid in the AMF. The bacteria and fungi in the soil plus the AMF all are things that are easily altered if the soil’s health has changed or degraded in any way. Soil bacteria and fungi are important for many ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling, carbon sequestering and plant regulation growth.
Phospholipids are an important structural component of microbial cell membranes and they can be found in living soil microbes. These phospholipids are important biomarkers in soil health. Neutral lipids found in soil are tested for their importance in being measured to see how abundant the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are in the soil. An Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus is the most common symbiotic fungus and is important for most land plants and crops. Besides testing the soil health through extracting the phospholipid fatty acids and neutral lipid fatty acids you also can test the plant tissue of plants growing in that soil. Checking the soil lipids is a smart way to indicate how healthy the soil is and what proper steps are needed to balance the ecosystem. All of this testing can be done in soil testing labs.
Soil sampling is important for testing the quality of the soil and to look for any contaminants. To take a good sample you must take samples from different locations to get one big composite sample. Take samples 2-6 inches deep; you do not need more than six inches of soil. You can use a shovel or a sample probe to get your sample. If you are using a shovel, dig the shovel 6 inches into the ground and once you take the shovel out of the ground remove the top layer (do not put in your sample) and then take a vertical sample of the soil (the soil is parallel to the shovel) to put into your collective soil bucket. Soil sampling can be simplified if you have a soil sample probe. Push your probe into the ground six inches deep and turn the probe to keep the soil in it. With your shovel or probe you need ten to fifteen cores to make up one sample and then mix all of these samples into a bucket. Put your samples in a cardboard box or paper bag (do not use plastic) and then send a pint or your desired amount into a lab for testing.
Soil compaction, soil contamination, erosion and topsoil removal are a few of the biggest issues soil faces. Soil compaction is problematic because it can cause poor root growth, increased acidity in the soil and drowned plant roots. When soil is compacted the soil is unable to drain water properly, this can lead to water pooling at the surface and this will kill plants growing in that soil. Erosion is problematic because the topsoil can be ripped away by wind or water and especially on slopes. Topsoil is the top 4-8 inches of the soil and is where most of the biodiversity in the soil thrives. Most of the plant roots and organic matter are in the topsoil; therefore erosion can rip away the most living layer of the soil. Once the topsoil is removed the soil’s health can greatly decline. Soil contamination is caused by animal waste, heavy metals, pesticides and industrial waste. All of these contaminants can have adverse effects on soil health; these soil contaminants can be tested for in a lab.
Soil investigation is needed before construction and/or engineering projects to understand the soil/ ground conditions. This type of investigation is important for checking the soundness of the ground for building on top. It is important to check the stratigraphy (study of rocks) of the land to see if homes and buildings will be stable on this ground. Reasons to have a soil investigation are law requires it and it can identify any challenges that this land might pose for building. The soil investigation can also help with estimating the cost of building projects and also provide necessary information and direction for the building’s foundation. Not only is soil investigations required they give you peace of mind that you are building something safe and quality. If the soil is safe and is not against any environmental protection codes, construction can proceed.
Soil reports are required in California; soil reports are a geotechnical report of the analysis of the soil on a proposed construction site. The purpose of these soil reports is for the safety of the building and the general California public. These soil reports can cost up to $1000. Registered civil engineers in California are the only ones that are allowed to do soil reports. Soil reports are important for checking how the soil would do in a seismic event; they look at the liquefaction of the soil, the slope instability, surface displacement if there was an earthquake and total and differential settlement. The soil report is also necessary for checking the depth of the water table; the water table can lower in drought and rise during rainy times. It is important to check the water table before building because water tables can cause pressure on the soil and cause leaks and flooding to a structure.
Wrapping up, soil health is important and checking the soundness of the ground is important for construction work. Soil sampling is easy to do and labs can quickly get the information on the status of the soil and give you recommendations on how to improve the soil’s health. There are many factors to consider before building and soil investigations and reporting are necessary.