Why You Should Test Your Soil

Apr 16, 2019 2 min read

Soil testing helps identify nutrient content. Testing your soil helps ensure you are getting the most out of your fertilizer for the healthiest and largest yield. All you have to do is send a 1-pound sample to a lab. That soil will likely represent many acres of soil, so getting a truly representative sample is important. If a good sample is collected, the results should provide a good estimate of the status of the soil.

Information a Soil Test Provides

A soil sample provides you information on nutrients yours may be lacking. Different nutrient levels give you different information on what you need to add.

  • The pH level in the soil. This will help identify if your soil needs lime.
  • The plant available nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium levels. This will tell you if you need to apply fertilizer to meet your crop needs and yield goal.
  • Magnesium and calcium levels in the soil.

You can also request things like the percent organic matter level in the spoil and recommended amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to apply.

Collecting a Soil Sample

Before you begin to collect your samples, divide the areas you want tested by field or areas less than 20 acres. You’ll want to collect samples from different parts of each field. In each area collect 15 to 20 different samples. You can place all the samples for the same area in one bucket. After you’ve collected the samples let them air-dry. Once they’re dry you can place the sample in the soil testing bag/box that was provided by the lab. Before sending the soil to the lab, make sure to complete the information required for sample identification, field history and planned crops.

Cost for Soil Testing

Although sending a sample for a lab test may sound expensive, soil testing is surprisingly affordable. A basic test will usually cost between $5 and $15 per sample. Costs can vary depending on your state, the lab and more your soil is being tested for. It is recommended that you submit a soil test for each field, or in 20-acre increments.

The potential increase of profit outweighs the cost of the test. Testing your soil is beneficial for you, your crops and the environment.

Farmer Benefits

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 simplifies 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.

Environmental Benefits

Soil sampling can also help the environment. Regular usage can wear out the land on which you grow your crops. The biggest impact soil testing has on environmental benefits mean:

  • More efficient use of plant nutrients means less losses from leaching or runoff into waterways.
  • Poorly nourished crops leave less plant residue to hold soil in place. Plant residue helps build soil and saves it from wind and water erosion.
  • Providing the right levels of nutrients helps increase yields and may help reduce the need for intensively farming marginal land.

Testing your soil helps you feel confident about the health of your crops. Contact your Farm Bureau agent to feel confident in your insurance.

Want to learn more?

Contact a local FBFS agent or advisor for answers personalized to you.