A Guide to Better Soil Structure

The National Soil Resources Institute’s practical guide to understanding, assessing, maintaining and improving soil structure.

Resource explained

Good crop productivity is dependent on good soil structure. This detailed booklet, produced by Cranfield University’s National Soil Resources Institute, was designed to complement advice given in the Code of Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Soil, Water and Air. It provides farm-specific guidance on the management of soil structure.

Information is divided into:

  • Defining what soil structure is and the impacts of structural change.
  • Descriptions of the optimum structure, the importance of soil organic matter, and seedbed, subsoil and topsoil structure.
  • Guidance on examining soil structures and soil block types. 
  • Soil problems; compaction, structure damage, impeded soil drainage.
  • Management options and descriptions of the impacts of various tillage operations, including reduced cultivations. 
  • Tips on ways to maintain soil structure.
  • A short section on soil structure under grassland.


Findings & recommendations

  •  When soil structure is poor, it affects crop yield and quality, erosion occurs, and tillage, fertiliser spreading and spraying operations are affected. A poor soil structure will reduce your crop and farm profits by restricting plant performance and increasing costs accrued through correcting problems.
  • Weather related factors create soil structure changes. The different composition and orientation of structures within a soil therefore vary with depth and crop stage during the season.
  • The recovery of compacted soils is influenced by swelling and shrinkage in soils with sufficient clay contents and by frost action. If you live in an area that does not experience soil freezing in winter, the effects of wheeled traffic can persist for several years.
  • The publication can be particularly noted for the detailed photographs showing the different soil block types that help you identify whether the soil has poor or good structure and what are likely to be issues that need to be dealt with, through looking at the shape and structure of the blocks. There are also some useful detailed cross-section photographs for clay and sandy loams that show the differences between poor and good structure and what you need to look out for.


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