Coatings of soil particles that cling to plant roots (rhizosheaths) are a sign of biological/microbial activity in the rhizosphere (root zone). Roots are brown, not white. Soil particles are bound to the roots by biotic glues, secreted by microorganisms. This is aggregation in action and therefore the start of forming good soil structure.

Do this test at the same time as the spade test/VESS test.


  • Spade
  • Gloves

Doing test:

  1. Dig out a small section of soil, no wider than your spade. Or combine with Spade/VESS tests.
  2. Break soil away from roots lightly and shake gently so any loose soil falls away.
  3. Observe if there are is any light soil that seems to be attached around the roots.
  4. Record with app a score of 1-3 for the amount of roots with rhizosheaths observed.


A score from 1-3 where:

  1. None – roots white, no soil covering
  2. Few – some roots have partial or full coating
  3. Many – most roots are fully coated


Image credit: Fred Price at Gothelney Farm, Somerset UK.