In several of the classes and workshops I’ve attended, many of the guest speakers have stressed the importance of soil testing.
After reclaiming several of the pastures that were overrun with brush and weeds, I can see that now we are getting more and more native forages coming up.
In order to continue helping out our native forages, it all comes down to the health of the soil.
So is was time for us to get a proper soil test done.
How to do a soil test?
Soil samples can be taken at any time of the year, with early spring and fall being preferred.
They are normally taken annually or as needed.
We ordered a free soil testing kit from DairyOne.com.
You can also contact your local county extension office to get a kit.
For collecting your samples, it is best to get 5-10 random spots in the target field.
You then mix these samples all together and take about 1 cup from that representation to send off to the lab.
I just used my shovel and lifted up a section of sod.
I then cut a slice down underneath the lifted section to get about 6″ of soil.
What you don’t want to do is get a cross-section, but a vertical slice of soil.
It needs to air dry before it can be sent off the lab.
The kit boxes and forms need to be filled out as well.
Here they ask for field name, date, soil type, current use and future usage.
Know your soil types?
As you can see from the soil test form, knowing the type of soil you have is required for the field(s) you are testing.
You can do many things to help your soil, but you really can’t change your soil type.
What you have is what you got and passing on this information to the lab helps with their recommendations.
You can find what soil types you have by using this map and tool from the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
The lab needs this information to assist in your future field plans, i.e. whether you want to grow crops or rotate livestock on pasture.
The soil types in our primary pastures are Kingsbury silty clay loam, Claverack loamy fine sand and Cosad loamy fine sand.
Here are our soils getting dried in the sun.
It’s interesting to see the color and textural differences between them.
Why is soil testing important?
Soil testing is an important tool in your nutrient management program guiding your farm towards better pasture health and crop fertility.
Soil test results will guide you in the decision whether or not fertilization is needed, resulting in environmental and economic benefits.
Soil test results can indicate problem areas in your soil as well.
Our goal is increased soil resiliency, so this is an ongoing implementation and assessment methodology to help us get there.
Why test soil on your farm?
Most soil nutrients are readily found in the soil provided that its pH level is within the 6 to 6.5 range.
However, when the pH level rises, many nutrients (like phosphorus, iron, etc.) may become less available.
Getting a soil test can help take the guesswork out of fixing any of these nutrient issues.
There’s no need to spend money on fertilizers that aren’t necessary.
There’s no worry of over fertilizing plants either.
With a soil test, you’ll have the means for creating a healthy soil environment that will lead to maximum plant growth.
What will a soil test show?
A soil test can determine the current fertility and health of your soil.
By measuring both the pH level and pinpointing nutrient deficiencies, a soil test can provide the information necessary for maintaining the most optimal fertility each year.
Most plants, including grasses, flowers, and vegetables, perform best in slightly acidic soil (6.0 to 6.5).
Therefore, having a soil test can make it easier to determine the current acidity so you can make the appropriate adjustments.
It will also allow you to fix any deficiencies that may be present.
When I get the results back from the lab, I will share them with you in a subsequent post.
For a comprehensive resource on Soil 101, check out Soil Building, Soil Amendments and Rain Barrels