First posted on 09-25-2013
A person can’t tell whether a field, lawn or garden has too much phosphorus or too little organic matter simply by smelling and touching the soil.
But, if a sample of the soil is taken to a local University of Missouri Extension center, it can be tested to determine exactly what is needed to maximize the potential of the soil.
A soil test provides information on the nutrient levels (potassium, calcium or lime, and magnesium), percent of organic matter and lime requirements
“With this type of information, a fertilizer and lime program can be determined based on the needs of the plants to be grown and the condition of the soil,” said Tim Schnakenberg, agronomy specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
When taking a soil sample from the lawn, garden or field, use a clean spade and clean pail. Push the spade deep into soil and throw out a spade full of soil.
Then cut a one-inch slice of soil from the back of the hole with the spade. Be sure the slice goes seven inches deep and is even in width and thickness. Place this slice in the pail.
Repeat these steps five or six times at different spots over your lawn, garden or field.
Thoroughly mix the six or seven slices you have in the pail. After mixing, take about one pint of soil to your nearest extension center.
There is a fee for a soil test to cover laboratory costs. Getting results back generally takes from one to two weeks.
The soil test report provides information on soil test results and ratings, suggested fertilizer and limestone treatments for the lawn or field, and fertility management practices or concerns.
Each soil test done with the MU Extension office also comes with recommendations made by a trained and experienced specialist who can also answer any questions you have free-of-charge.
“Without the information a soil test provides all you can do is guess. A guess will normally result in crop loss or poor blooming,” said Schnakenberg. “To make it easy for you to interpret the soil test results, your report form will indicate which fertilizers, and how much, you should apply.”
For more information on soil testing, contact the nearest University of Missouri Extension Center and request UMC Guide 9110, “How to Get a Good Soil Sample” and Guide 9111, “Using Your Soil Test Results.” Information is also available online at extension.missouri.edu/greene.
Any county extension center can help with a soil test and provide custom reports that meet your specific needs. Contact the nearest county extension center for details and price information.
University of Missouri Extension improves people’s lives through relevant, responsive and reliable research-based education from University of Missouri. MU Extension programs are open to all.
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