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Tools and Tech: Understanding soil health on the go

December 7, 2023  By Soil Health Institute

In celebration of World Soil Day, December 5, the Soil Health Institute (SHI) announced the release of a free phone application, Slakes, to empower and engage citizens around the world to measure aggregate stability: one of the most common indicators of soil health. Soils with greater aggregate stability are more resistant to wind and water erosion, and are linked to improved water capture, infiltration, and storage, contributing to improved water management and agricultural productivity.

“Improving soil health benefits all,” said Dr. Cristine Morgan, SHI’s chief scientific officer, in a statement. “I am excited to see our team and partners make credible soil health measurement technology readily available to anyone with a smartphone.”

The Slakes app uses a smartphone camera to take a picture of three dry soil aggregates before and after exposing them to water for 10 minutes. The app then automatically calculates an aggregate stability value. Weaker aggregates will slake (or break apart) more easily, while stronger aggregates will slake less, indicating better soil aggregation and healthier soil.

“The Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation has been a long-time supporter of the Soil Health Institute because SHI brings us catalytic ideas that can scale,” said Roberta Gordon, President & CEO of the Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation. “Slakes is a great example.”


SHI envisions that this application will be used by the public, K-12 and college educators in their curricula, as well as conservation professionals, farmers, advisors, and industry/policy stakeholders who are interested in quantifying the impact of management on soil health.

“As one of the top commercial bank agricultural lenders in the U.S., Wells Fargo is a proud supporter of the Soil Health Institute and the development of Slakes,” added Robyn Luhning, chief sustainability officer at Wells Fargo. “Maintaining soil health is an important part of supporting climate resiliency for our customers and communities.”

SHI recommends measuring aggregate stability using the Slakes app as part of a minimum suite of measurements to assess management induced changes in soil health. Aggregate stability index values from Slakes can be compared across management practices to measure improvements in soil health.

“Everyone should be able to analyze their soil quickly, inexpensively, and accurately” added Dr. Alex McBratney from the University of Sydney in Australia. “Which technology for doing this is more accessible and fun than a free app on your mobile phone?”

The Slakes app is available on Google Play and the App Store, and its development was made possible due to a partnership with the University of Sydney and the generous financial support from Wells Fargo Foundation and The Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation.

To download Slakes please visit https://soilhealthinstitute.org/our-work/initiatives/slakes/ and contact info@soilhealthinstitute.org to learn more about potential integration into your organization.

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