Soil Testing

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension image

High commodity prices are causing many farmers to consider shifting to crops such as cotton. For planning purposes, lime and fertilizer recommendations are critical. With land preparation for the 2011 crop season still several months away, growers still have time to get the benefits of thorough soil testing. Soil testing by growers at the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Agronomic Services Division is in very high demand this fall. Weather conditions have allowed growers and crop consultants to collect soil samples earlier than normal. In November, the lab analyzed 12 percent more samples than it did last year, and thousands more are lined up to be tested.

With so many samples coming in, processing currently requires five to six weeks after arrival at the lab. The division is taking steps to reduce the slowdown. A new laboratory instrument, which should be up and running in early January, is expected to boost the lab’s processing capacity to more than 3,200 soil samples a day. This represents an increase of at least 400 samples per day above current capacity and would be a record number for processing daily.

The soil lab has more than 70 years of experience providing soil specific recommendations and results. In addition to testing for nutrient levels, the lab also performs two analytical tests that classes our soils for the purpose of making reliable lime and fertilizer recommendations, which have been field-tested here in North Carolina. One of the best reasons to use the state lab is that NCDA&CS offers free advisory services through our network of regional agronomists. Clients who use NCDA&CS services know that the soil analysis is thorough and complete, that recommendations are crop and area specific, and that advisory support is always available. The Field Services Section has 13 regional agronomists who can make on site visits. They can provide advice on collecting and submitting agronomic samples, interpreting test results, liming, fertilization, irrigation and nematode management. To contact the agronomist for your area, visit www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/rahome.htm.

If you are considering planting different commodities, planting a garden, or just growing a lawn now is the time to take soil samples so you will be ready for the spring growing season. There is no reason to guess at how much lime and fertilizer you need to add to the soil when you can find out for free. For more information on soil sampling you can contact me at (910) 875-3461 or email me at keith_walters@ncsu.edu.