The Soil Test and Its Role in Proper Soil Fertility
Soil that is fertile has a mixture of well-balanced minerals, humus, high organic matter, fulvic and carbonic acids, abundant microbial life, and good aeration. Soil fertility at this level will produce plants at its healthiest, especially with sufficient oxygen and water.
If the goal is a bountiful harvest, fertile soil is a must.
For every growing season, however, the quantity and availability of mineral nutrients change. This is mainly due to the fertilizers, manure, and lime previously added. There are also the factors of leaching and denitrification.
Therefore, it is important to conduct a soil test before each growing season. Without it, you are practically guessing nutrient applications.
What is a complete soil test?
This is done to identify what nutrients are available in the beginning and in the middle of the growing season, and what is left at the end of a season.
If the test result shows that organic matter is 2% or less, the soil is considered poor since the ideal number is 4% to 10%. Under these circumstances, you need to increase the organic matter levels to achieve better soil structure, texture, aeration, water holding capacity, and drainage.
How much manure, composts, cover crops, and other organic mulches you need to apply is also determined through a soil test.
A soil sample from 6 to 7-inches deep is usually taken. This is the primary zone that will be tested for most crops. The fall and early spring are the best times to test soil. Not so much during winter and right after fertilizer or lime applications.
The sample is tested for alkalinity, cation saturation, cation exchange capacity, macro nutrients, micro nutrients, organic matter, and soil pH.
What is the role of soil testing in proper soil fertility?
-Help identify nutritional problems before they can escalate to expensive losses.
-Help identify what needs to be replaced or amended to ensure balanced soil fertility. The soil may have deleterious soil pH or excessive nutrient levels.
-Identify which fertilizer and nutrients you need to achieve maximum yield goals.
-Identify how much nutrients need to be applied for optimum harvest.
-Ensure that fertilizer and nutrient applications do not compromise the fertility of the soil.
-Provides the necessary information to maintain optimum fertility every growing season.
-Allow farmers and growers to correct a problem before planting.
-Help achieve balance in applying nutrients and avoiding over-application.
Given these advantages, no farmer or grower should skip soil testing every growing season. The cost of a soil test is significantly lower than the cost of seed and plants, the labor involved, and the loss if production suffers.
Hire Professional Soil Testing
To get the best test results, a good sample must be taken. A composite sample must be submitted, which involves taking 5 random samples at plow depth following a standard pattern. These should be marked with GPS location for repeatable locations year after year.
It is recommended that for every 2.5 to 3.3 acres that a sample is taken. A sample would be a collection of five soil cores. It is also important not to combine cores from areas that are not uniform to the desired sample.
With all the factors you must consider in taking a soil sample, it is best to hire professionals, like Precision Agronomics, to perform a complete soil test and to read the results and in turn repeat this process every 4 years.
Precision Agronomics is located at 9438 West SR 28 in West Lebanon, IN and is proud to serve: Marshfield, Johnsonville, Foster, Stone Bluff, Bismarck, and the surrounding areas. Contact us today for more information!