Soil testing involves collecting soil samples, preparation for analysis, chemical or physical analysis, interpretation of analysis results, and finally making fertilizer and lime recommendations for the crops.
Knowing the exact nutrient found in your farm soil and the pH is the first step of any healthy crop production program. Crops are usually grown on a very wide variety of soil types and different fertilizer requirements, depending on the soil health and condition. Application of many nutrients can result in imbalance in soil and eventually affect the environment and contaminate water and the creatures beneath.
A soil’s pH is the measure of its acidity or alkalinity based on a scale of 0 to 14. Zero represents very strong acidity, while on the other hand fourteen is extreme alkalinity, and seven is neutral. The pH of an ideal soil in a farm should be in the range of 6.0 to 7.5. If the pH becomes a little imbalanced, it directly affects the availability of nutrients in the soil. Products with limestone are applied to soil that is sour or acidic, while alkaline soils require sulphur products to be applied.
How to get soil for testing
To Take a Soil Sample:
- Use a shovel, trowel, soil probe, sampling tube or any ideal tool;
- Sample to a depth of 5 to 7 inches;
- Remove all the grass, stones, thatch or debris;
- Take 6 or 7 samples, thoroughly mix them in a plastic bucket then ensure approximately 1 pint of soil is collected;
- Spread over a dry paper such as a newspaper and let it dry for 24 hours. Most of the labs prefer dry soil. However, some moisture may remain;
- Label the sample and send it to the test centre, or the lab.
The results will inform the soil technicians of the recommendations that will correct its condition; from any pH adjustments or fertilizer deficiencies and allowing comprehensive approaches to fertilizing the piece of farm.
Why should farmers get their soil tested?
1. It informs the farmer of the current health of the farm’s soil and how to improve it
Soil fertility is determined by the soil’s biological, chemical, and physical properties. Properties such as structure, soil texture, and colour are visible to the eye. However, it is hard to see the chemical composition of the soil. Therefore, there is a need for soil diagnosis and that’s why soil sampling is critical. Soil tests are used to determine the soil’s nutrient level and pH content. Armed with this information, farmers can define the quantity of fertilizer and the exact type that is needed for application to improve the soil on your farm. This is essential because fertile soils are necessary to grow healthy crops.
2. Soil testing results in limited over-fertilization
Applying fertilizer to the soil without knowing the exact and actual nutrient that it needs will lead to over-fertilization. Overuse of fertilizers may be harmful not only to the environment but also it might cause fertilizer burn to the crops. Testing soil prior and receiving informed fertilizer recommendation prevents farmers from applying an excessive amount of fertilizers and minimizing the related environmental damages. Over-fertilization might result in water pollution, nutrient leaching, and irreversible harm to aquatic life. Just a simple soil test can prevent all these negative environmental effects.
3. Soil test leads to minimization of fertilizer expenditure
Knowing the exact deficiency of soil is experiencing will result in zero wastage of such farm inputs. The quantity and type of fertilizers of crops and soil need to prevent farmers from wasting money on unnecessary extra fertilizer application. Moreover, nutrients such as potassium and phosphorus that are part of inorganic fertilizers are very limited resources. Their supply is limited or rather finite; implying that there is a need to be cautious in the usage to prevent a future shortage of such limited resources.
4. Farmers can easily avoid soil degradation
It is estimated from research that each year more than 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil are lost because of erosion which is caused by unbalanced soil management. Furthermore, land degradation directly affects the livelihoods and health of an estimated 1.5 billion people. Soil restoration is a costly, difficult, and time-consuming process. Therefore, better soil management through soil testing is an easier route to take, and application of the right amounts of fertilizers is efficient and financially justified.
5. Farmers with fertile soils can contribute to feeding the world’s growing population
A fertile soil also provides essential nutrients for plant growth, to produce healthy food with all the necessary nutrients needed for human health. Moreover, fertility has an impact on activities with an economic impact and is therefore related to economic growth and the fight against poverty.
Soil testing provides plenty of benefits for farmers. Healthy soil improves crop growth. Farmers can begin testing their soil before harvest season to get a jump on how they can improve their soil. These benefits can help farmers by:
- Improving yields and profitability because you are providing necessary nutrients to your crops.
- Increasing consistency of nutrient availability across a field.
- More uniform crop growth. This also helps individual plants stronger against weeds and implies other processes like cultivation and spraying.
- More uniform plant maturity. This can help simplify crop harvesting and drying along with improving market quality.
- Allowing fine-tuning of which nutrients are most needed. Helping you allocate your fertilizer dollars to those nutrients that will give you the greatest profit increase.
For any inquiries on soil testing, contact Mazero agrifood on 0729777711.