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Soil Quality and Testing
Soil quality is affected by many factors, ranging from properties such as nutrient levels and organic matter content to land use, nearness to pollution sources, and other site conditions. The information on this website is intended to help people who are interested in learning about soil contamination, soil testing, interpreting test results, and best practices for healthy soils. Check back for updates as our research and education programs expand.

 Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities  

Cornell researchers continue to collaborate with a variety of partners to address key issues, including: the fate of contaminants and levels in soils and garden produce, the effectiveness of testing methods and management strategies, and the impacts of contaminants and how to best characterize human exposures.


 Education and Outreach
Our education and outreach programs aim to address the questions and concerns of residents, gardeners, extension educators, and others in the community who are interested in soil health. Ultimately, we hope that these resources will help foster informed decision making to improve soil quality and reduce possible health risks from exposures to soil contaminants.
 Soil Testing  

Soil testing can provide information to help improve soil quality, create healthy gardens, and protect public health. Our project team is working with gardening groups in New York City and other communities to implement feasible and informative soil testing strategies for contaminants of concern. The fact sheets in the Education and Outreach section also include more information about soil testing and interpreting test results.


 Other Resources
Many other universities, government agencies, extension programs, testing labs, gardening groups, and other organizations provide additional information and resources about soil quality issues. Some of these resources are highlighted here.


  • Visit the Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities web page for more information about our collaborative project funded by the National Institutes of Health to address the issue of soil contamination in urban community gardens.
  • More information coming soon about comparisons of analytical methods used to measure metals in soils and other related research efforts.

Education and Outreach

Fact Sheets - Resources for Healthy Soils:

  • More Information coming soon about lead, arsenic, and other topics of interest.

Presentations, Media, etc:

  • We periodically convene workshops, discussion sessions, and informational meetings at conferences or other events. Watch for an opportunity near you or contact Hannah Shayler to learn more.
  • Soil Testing for Contaminated Sites. Cornell Garden-Based Learning Webinar, May 2012.
  • Contaminants in Soils: An Overview of Key Topics. (PDF), updated May 2010. A PowerPoint overview of sources of soil contaminants, pathways of exposure, devising and implementing appropriate soil sampling strategies, interpreting test results, and best practices for healthy gardens. Please see the Fact Sheets above for more comprehensive information. Updated May 2010.
  • Science Cabaret on Air is a two part (15 minutes each) radio interview addressing soil contaminants in gardens: "information and solutions." Interview 1. Interview 2. (mp3). 2010.
  • Soil Considerations for School and Community Gardens. Presentation by Jonathan Russell-Anelli to Extension educators that covers topics relating to urban agriculture and soils. 57-minutes. November 2010.

Soil Testing

  • See Fact Sheets under Education and Outreach section above for more information about soil testing and other topics.
  • The Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory (CNAL) will continue to offer testing services for research purposes and for total elemental (metals) analyses, grower samples will now be analyzed by Agro-One Services. See CNAL web site for more information.
  • A list of laboratories certified by the NYS Department of Health Environmental Laboratory Approval Program (ELAP) is available here.
  • Cornell University Cooperative Extension provides additional guidance on soil testing here. 2013.
  • A Comparison of Tests for Extractable Copper and Zinc in Metal-Spiked and Field-Contaminated Soil. Article published in Soil Science 174(8):439-444, 2009. Click here for abstract.

Other Resources

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Soil and Crop Sciences Section
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