A review of visual soil evaluation techniques for soil structure

JP Emmett-Booth, PD Forristal, O Fenton, BC Ball, NM Holden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
352 Downloads (Pure)


Soil structure forms a key component of soil quality, and its assessment by semi-quantitative visual soil evaluation (VSE) techniques can help scientists, advisors and farmers make decisions regarding sampling and soil management. VSE techniques require inexpensive equipment and generate immediate results that correlate well with quantitative measurements of physical and biochemical properties, highlighting their potential utility. We reviewed published VSE techniques and found that soils of certain textures present problems and a lack of research into the influence of soil moisture content on VSE criteria. Generally, profile methods evaluate process interactions at specific locations within a field, exploring both intrinsic aspects and anthropogenic impacts. Spade methods focus on anthropogenic characteristics, providing rapid synopses of soil structure over wider areas. Despite a focus on structural form, some methods include criteria related to stability and resiliency. Further work is needed to improve existing methods regarding texture influences, on-farm sampling procedures and more holistic assessments of soil structure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623 - 634
Number of pages12
JournalSoil Use and Management
Issue number4
Early online date4 Oct 2016
Publication statusFirst published - 4 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note



  • Soil quality
  • Soil structure
  • Visual soil examination


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