SHAP Ground-Truthing Project

Populating the soil health database to enhance Ontario’s capacity for soil health assessment and interpretation 


OMAFRA released the Soil Health Assessment and Plan (SHAP) tool for use. SHAP is a mobile- or web-app based tool, created to assess field practices and is paired with lab analysis of soil health indicators.

With your help, the Soils At Guelph SHAP Ground-Truthing Project will help to populate the SHAP database with more agricultural soils from across Ontario.  This is critically important to building scoring functions to compare individual samples to other soils. We aim to refine scoring functions based on texture.

The Project uses a smaller number of SHAP questions to complete the tool, but all the soil Best Management Practices are covered.

Please email to participate in this project along with your name, county, and the number of fields you’d like to sample. 

FREE SHAP analysis:
organic matter (OM)
aggregate stability active carbon (POXc)
respiration (96-hr carbon mineralization CO2)
potentially mineralizable nitrogen (PMN)

FREE Soil Texture analysis: (% sand, silt, clay)

FREE Standard Fertility Package:
(pH, CEC, P, K, Ca, Mg) AND
carbon (inorganic, organic and total) and total nitrogen

This is an abbreviated SHAP Tool as part of a project by Soils At Guelph with the goal of building the SHAP database with Ontario soil samples. No personal information (e.g. landowner names, addresses) is being collected. Any production information (e.g. questions on cropping rotations, tillage methods) is being collected in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for the purposes of this project. The information obtained will be anonymized, and may be made available to collaborating organizations, such as University,  GBF, EFAO, OSN, OSCIA, OMAFRA, and AAFC, and only for specific soil-related research. By participating in this project, you acknowledge that Soils At Guelph is collecting the data for this purpose and provide your consent.

Once you’ve successfully registered with, its as easy as 1 -2 -3 -4:

  1. Complete SHAP Management Tool
  2. Complete SHAP IN Field Tool
  3. Take a Point Sample
  4. Send to Lab

This has a $200+ value.  

You will be part of building a soil health tool for #OntAg backed by real Ontario data!  This is a first-come-first-serve offer with limited number of samples in 2023 to 2025.

The first step in choosing a location is determining your Soil Health Goal.  This can be done with grower and advisors together. Common goals include:

  • Setting a benchmark to compare future assessments for identifying trends
  • Understanding the most important limitations and risks to the soil’s productivity
  • Comparing good and poor areas of a field

If you are choosing a location based on benchmarking or comparison, collect a sample from a point from within the area in question.  If good data exists for the field (e.g. yield index maps, soil property maps) or if reliable management zones have been established, this information can guide the selection of a sampling location(s) within the field.

This guide provides more detailed information about defining a soil health goal and choosing a sample location.  Additional information can be found in OMAFRA’s Detailed Guidebook.

All sample submissions must be accompanied by a completed submission form.  The form and necessary details will be sent to your email once you’ve submitted the SHAP Soil Management Tool (Step 1) and SHAP In-field Tool (Step 2).

Completed forms will include:

  • Your unique sample ID (emailed to you after completing Step 1)
  • The project quote # (emailed to you after completing step 2)
  • That you’d like a “Soils At Guelph SHAP Ground Truthing Project Test”

Ship samples to:  Agriculture and Food Laboratory, Univ Guelph, 95 Stone Rd W, Guelph, ON N1G 2Z4. Or drop-off Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm or Saturday, 9:30am to 1:30pm

Agriculture & Food Laboratory will email the lab results “SHAPPROJECT” directly to the email provided on the lab submission form.

Note that soil health testing is intensive.  Our project is helping to develop capacity in the province to process the analysis.  Results may take longer than usual to process.

You and Soils At Guelph will receive results directly from the lab.  Soils At Guelph will send you an additional report by email in the spring of the subsequent year that assigns Soil Health Scores to your lab results, helping you to interpret the lab results. 

Aggregated results from across the province will be available in early 2025 by Soils At Guelph team, and all results will support our efforts to build the soil database with Ontario data.  

Our Ground Truthing project is helping to support OMAFRA’s SHAP Tool by helping to build the database with Ontario Soils.

More information on OMAFRA’s SHAP initiative is available through their Field Crop News.

Do you have a question?  Maybe someone has asked your question already.  See the list below for a series of common questions.

Q1) Is the cost of shipping covered?  
A1) The cost of the shipping is not included.  We DO cover the cost of the analysis. 
Q2) Are special tools required for sample collection? Can I use a standard gardening trowel.
A2) A 6” soil probe is recommended.  Draw 20-30 core samples from a 3 m radius.  Remove surface debris from each core.  Place cores into clean pail.  Mix cores in the pail without completely pulverizing them. Transfer into TWO standard soil sample bags, then into boxes.  Label your boxes with your unique sample ID (see Step 3 in the guide).
Q3)Is a Ziploc bag sufficient for storage?
A3) Any sterile and sealable bag put into a box or other “rip proof” container is sufficient for storage. A medium sized ziplock bag is about the same as a standard soil sample bag. 
Q4) Do samples need temperature control for shipping? 
A4) No.  But please keep samples cool prior to shipping. 
Q5) Are only row-crop fields eligible, or would hay fields and pastures be eligible as well?  
A5) Hay fields are eligible, but not pasture. 
Q6) Does time of year matter?
A6) The best time is June, before the ground gets too hard. However, it may be more convenient to take samples in September or early October (when the ground has softened up again).  Be sure to keep a record of your sampling time, and if you are taking another sample in the future, take the sample again at the same time of year. 
Q7) What if I’ve had my fields mapped? 
A7) Field data from digital mapping, etc., can be used to help you choose which soil sampling location you decide to pick. See “Choosing why when and where to sample” Guide
Q8) Where can I find the Quote # for my sample submission form? 

A8) It was sent to you automatically when you completed Step 2 (SHAP-Infield Data Collection Form).  It is a 6-digit alpha-numeric code.  The email comes from

Q9) Where do I get a soil probe? 
A9) Try Hoskin Scientific to see soil probes and other soil product offerings. 
Don’t see your question answered here?  Reach out to:

Fall planted cover crops

This Project received generous funding from:

Weston Family Foundation through the Weston Family Soil Health Initiative