Farmers that keep their soils fit require less inputs and assume less financial risks. Visual Soil Assessment (VSA) help farmers to determine the condition of their soils without lab.
When it comes to farming, Improving soil has the highest return on investment. Knowing the soil and how to interact with it has top priority for the farmer of the future.
Knowledge is out there…
Nowadays practical knowledge of the soil is int in the farm. It is segmented among a cloud of consultants. These consultants are linked to commercial firms that sell agricultural inputs. They never get the hands dirty but they know how to link soil analysis to the products they sell. Independent consultants have little place in this market of free advice and expensive products. After 60 years of industrial agriculture knowledge is gone it only remains sales. As consequence, farmers do not have objective information. Visual Soil Analysis (VSA) provide direct and objective information to farmers about the soil and help to make integrated decissions to improve the farmer’s natural capital.
Farming or paperwork?
To know about soil, modern farmers rely on lab analysis. They put the soil sample in a bag, fill a form and send both things to the lab by post. It is easy.Lab soil analysis reports contain a long list of parameters. These parameters mean nothing if they aren’t are interpreted by consultants that know that is normal and what not. These consultants live far away from the farm and have never seen it. They work for farmers but spend more than 90% of their time in the lab among computers and coffee dispensers.
With these soil analysis other consultants and fertilizer re-sellers make fertilization schedules. This second type of consultants know more about products. they see chemical deficiencies and put a combination of commercial product behind to solve the problem. They also live far away from the farm. They do not even see the soil samples. It is just paperwork. At the end farmers get a pile of papers, numbers invoice and no recomendations but a shopping list to put some tons/ha of this and many other tons/ha of that. They buy the products and contract laborers to apply them. Nobody knows what happen in the soil until the next season time farmer goes to the lab with another bag, and gets the next shopping list. If the soil would get any better, we might expect that the shopping list shorter is or the costs go down but the experience tell us that during the last 60 years the inputs only go up and yields only go down.
The European “modern” farmer is so busy paying bills and applying for subsidies, that he/she has little time to farm. He/She has little time to have a look in the soil and to realize that mainly bad soil is a synonymous of a hole in the pocket. The main productive factor of agriculture is forgotten.
Farmers can do it themselves
Any farmer that work close to their land know when a soil is good or when it is in trouble. They perceive the tinniest differences in performance. But often, they cannot point to the causes and rely on external expertise.
The VSA was developed in New Zealand by Mr Graham Shepherd. With a Shovel and a field guide, they can survey the soil tehmselves with their own eyes. VSA gives insight about:
- Soil Organic content
- Soil life
- Root development
- Hard pan
- Land cover
Rockin Soils works to test this method in the Dutch dairy farms. In the Netherlands VSA is called Bodem Contitie Score (BCS). At this moment VSA helps Duth dairy farmers to assess the condition of grass and maize in the area of the Beemster to improve the soils.
Be the first to know your soil
If you want to learn to asses your soil, to start improving the natural fertility, you can contact rockinsoils.
More about VSA, visit
- FAO repositories
- In The Netherlands first workshop bodemconditie