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Data from: A database for global soil health assessment

posted on 2024-02-13, 14:02 authored by Jinshi Jian, Xuan Du, Ryan D. Stewart

Field studies have been performed for decades to analyze effects of different management practices on agricultural soils and crop yields, but these data have never been combined together in a way that can inform current and future cropland management. Here, we collected, extracted, and integrated a database of soil health measurements conducted in the field from sites across the globe. The database, named SoilHealthDB, currently focuses on four main conservation management methods: cover crops, no-tillage, agro-forestry systems, and organic farming. These studies represent 354 geographic sites (i.e., locations with unique latitudes and longitudes) in 42 countries around the world. The SoilHealthDB includes 42 soil health indicators and 46 background indicators that describe factors such as climate, elevation, and soil type. A primary goal of this effort is to enable the research community to perform comprehensive analyses, e.g., meta-analyses, of soil health changes related to cropland conservation management. The database also provides a common framework for sharing soil health, and the scientific research community is encouraged to contribute their own measurements.

Resources in this dataset:

  • Resource Title: Data Records - A database for global soil health assessment.

    File Name: Web Page, url:

    The data and R code can be downloaded in figshare; there are two folders, named data and RScripts, when ‘’ is unzipped. ‘SoilHealthDB_V1.xlsx’ in the data file currently includes 5,907 rows and 268 columns, which were retrieved from 321 papers (for the detailed reference list please refer to ‘References’ under ‘SoilHealthDB_V1.xlsx’). Each column corresponds to one data point of either background information or soil health indicator, and each row includes as many as 42 comparisons between treatments and controls (if all soil health indicators have data). The names, attributes, and descriptions of the background information and soil health indicators are presented in Online-only Tables 1 and 2. It should be noted that different measurements and/or units may be involved in the same soil health indicator (e.g., soil total nitrogen, soil organic nitrogen, or soil inorganic nitrogen are reported in different papers to represent the soil nitrogen indicator, ID 5 in Online-only Table 2); therefore, it is important that measurement objectives, units, and other detailed descriptions are recorded in the comments columns. It should also be noted that for some soil health indicators (e.g., CH4 and N2O emission), we were only able to extract limited numbers of comparisons, which may restrain the ability of those data to be used in further analyses. ‘SoilHealthDB_V1.csv’ is a simplified version of ‘SoilHealthDB_V1.xlsx’, with only soil health background and indicator information kept (e.g., all the description sheets were not kept). There are two R scripts in the ‘RScripts’ folder: the ‘SoilHealthDB_quality_check.R’ script includes code for quality check of the ‘SoilHealthDB’, and the ‘functions.R’ script defines several functions, including one to generate the location of the site in ‘SoilHealthDB’. The SoilHealthDB_V1.csv file is to be used when running the R codes.


USDA-NRCS: 69-3A75-14-260

Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


U.S. Department of Energy


Data contact name

Stewart, Ryan D.

Data contact email


Scientific Data

Intended use

To enable the research community to perform comprehensive analyses, e.g., meta-analyses, of soil health changes related to cropland conservation management, and to provide a common framework for sharing soil health.


  • Not specified

Geographic location - description


ISO Topic Category

  • environment
  • farming
  • geoscientificInformation

National Agricultural Library Thesaurus terms

databases; soil quality; agricultural soils; cropland; cover crops; no-tillage; agroforestry; organic production; climate; meta-analysis; grain yield; mass density; soil organic carbon; carbon sequestration; nitrogen content; phosphorus; potassium; pH; cation exchange; electrical conductivity; base saturation; aggregate stability; porosity; soil penetration resistance; infiltration rate; saturated hydraulic conductivity; soil erosion; soil nutrients; leaching; soil temperature; soil water; water holding capacity; parasitic plants; Lumbricus terrestris; Arthropoda; Nematoda; bacteria; fungi; mycorrhizae; enzyme activity; nitrogen; carbon dioxide; methane; information management; United States; Canada; Germany; Brazil; Italy; Sweden; Denmark; Nigeria; Argentina; Kenya; Zimbabwe; China; South Korea; Spain; Netherlands; Greece; Norway; France; New Zealand; Russia; Australia; Ghana; Malawi; Benin; Zambia; Cameroon; Peru; Indonesia; Philippines; Rwanda; Uganda; Togo; Guinea; Tanzania; Turkey; Moldova; England; India; Costa Rica; Switzerland; Bangladesh; Poland

Pending citation

  • No

Public Access Level

  • Public

Preferred dataset citation

Jian, Jinshi; Du, Xuan; Stewart, Ryan D. (2020). Data from: A database for global soil health assessment. Scientific Data.

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