Soil quality is in decline in many parts of the world, in part due to the intensification of agricultural practices. Whilst economic instruments and regulations can help incentivise uptake of more sustainable soil management practices, they rarely motivate long-term behavior change when used alone. There has been increasing attention towards the complex social factors that affect uptake of sustainable soil management practices. To understand why some communities try these practices whilst others do not, we undertook a narrative review to understand how social capital influences adoption in developed nations. We found that the four components of social capital – trust, norms, connectedness and power – can all influence the decision of farmers to change their soil management. Specifically, information flows more effectively across trusted, diverse networks where social norms exist to encourage innovation. Uptake is more limited in homogenous, close-knit farming communities that do not have many links with non-farmers and where there is a strong social norm to adhere to the status quo. Power can enhance or inhibit uptake depending on its characteristics. Future research, policy and practice should consider whether a lack of social capital could hinder uptake of new practices and, if so, which aspects of social capital could be developed to increase adoption of sustainable soil management practices. Enabling diverse, collaborative groups (including farmers, advisers and government officials) to work constructively together could help build social capital, where they can co-define, -develop and -enact measures to sustainably manage soils.