Agronomists, Civil Engineers, Geological Engineers and more will often talk about ‘Soil Quality’. As a result, there can be varying definitions of what ‘quality’ soil means. That means that there are a wide variety of tests to determine ‘Soil Quality’.
What Does Soil Quality Mean for You?
For the Agronomist, Soil Quality refers to the capacity of soil to provide a kind of function related to growing capacity. This will take into account the soils ability to support life as in its chemical properties (does it have enough nitrogen etc.), it’s biological properties (does it have the right bio-system to support the production of certain types of crops), will it retain the right amounts of water, is it’s grain size suitable for tilling etc. There are many tests that will help one to evaluate the agricultural viability of soils.
For the Civil and Geological Engineer some of these tests might be valuable. For instance, in making recommendations in how to reclaim a ‘brown field’ (a site that was formerly industrial that is now being re-developed for other purposes) it can be useful to identify the level of ability of an area to support specific types of grasses. When performing earthworks, it is not uncommon to use plantings such as trees as part of the anchor system to help to hold berms and such in place. Knowing Soil Quality in this respect can help to support a good decision with respect to the structural support that a living ecosystem can bring.
Generally though, Engineering types are after more specific physical properties in order to ‘do the math’ on how an engineered system will interact with the soil conditions that are present. This enables engineers to either recommend changing the systems in place (such as by excavating large quantities of soil out, or replacing existing soils with stone aggregates) or to recommend engineering features in designs such as deep-driven piles, to compensate for existing native conditions.
The types of Soil Quality parameters needed by engineers then will depend upon the type of project being considered and the nature of the ‘numbers that need to be run’. The range of challenges to solve can span from how to support heavy or cyclical loading structures (tall buildings / highway bridges), to the implications of running high-voltage systems underground. The presence of load bearing structures deep beneath the surface may need to be identified. The permeability of soils at various depths to liquids such as water may be an important factor, the conductivity of soils to electricity or the level of contamination of soils at various depths may need to be understood.
As you can imagine, a large variety of tests have evolved to get at specific types of soil parameters. Many of them involve taking a soil sample away to a lab for testing. This can be useful for many types of agricultural purposes, however for many engineering evaluations this approach has flaws and is being replaced by In Situ Soil Testing methodologies such as CPT.
Are you looking to produce site data that can be connected to meaningful and measurable results? Expanding into the Cone Penetration Testing (CPT) business may be the solution that you have been searching for. Whether you are looking to establish the quality of soil for geotechnical purposes or determining contamination levels; CPT can turn push test data into quick and accurate results.