Improvements in the visual evaluation of soil structure

RML Guimaraes, BC Ball, CA Tormena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Citations (Scopus)


Spade methods to visually evaluate soil structural quality (Sq) are simple, quick, cheap and can be used by farmers, gardeners, consultants and the scientific community. However, European and Brazilian users of one such method, viz. visual evaluation of soil structure (VESS) which is a development of the Peerlkamp test, have been concerned about its subjectivity. The method of soil slice break-up and operator influence on scores have been questioned. Thus, our aim was to make soil scoring by the VESS technique more objective and thus to revise the scoring guide. We compared scoring with normal breaking up of the soil slice by hand with scoring after breaking up the slice by dropping (drop shatter) to make the soil break-up more operator independent. After slice break-up, aggregates were split by hand and their internal porosity was evaluated to develop the use of visible porosity as an aid to scoring. This proved inconclusive on its own, so a method of reducing larger aggregates to 1.5–2.0 cm core fragments and describing their shape and porosity was developed to score soil Sq. Breaking up a spadeful of soil by hand or by dropping resulted in the same Sq score. The method of reducing aggregates and evaluation of their shape improved VESS, particularly in the middle range of soil quality and the revised chart is shown. VESS was sensitive to changes in Sq in layers within the profile and its use for diagnosing Sq in different layers allows targeted soil improvement by tillage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395 - 403
Number of pages9
JournalSoil Use and Management
Publication statusFirst published - 2011

Bibliographical note



  • Evaluation
  • Soil structure
  • Visual evaluation


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