From the Ground Up - The Importance of Soil Testing

Most ranchers and farmers know that to maximize yields, their hay fields or row crops have to be able to utilize nutrients from the soil, and the only way to be sure of what’s in the soil is to have it tested.

The same is true for home owners and their lawns and ornamental plants. Tony Provin is a Texas A&M Agrilife Extension professor and soil chemist.

“Whether it’s a homeowner, or a farmer, understanding what the nutrient levels are in a given area of a field or a front yard is key. From a homeowner’s perspective, we often manage our front yard differently than we manage our back yard, and collecting a good sample from the front yard would involve taking ten to fifteen individual sub samples blending them together, and submitting that to a laboratory for lab analysis.”

Provin says the soil analysis process is the same for an urban sample as it is for one from an agricultural environment.

“On a ranch or a row crop setting, we’re looking at it from the standpoint, whether it’s a soil series or an area within a field that can be managed separately, taking a similar ten to fifteen sub samples, and blending them together for a single sample going to a laboratory. It’s going to say these are the nutrient levels that you have currently. This is what is needed, or not needed to get the level up to an optimal production.”

In agriculture, optimal production takes into account the return on the investment of the nutrients being applied.

“The modern farmer is using soil testing and modern methods to know where to collect those soil samples, whether it be yield monitors, GPS date assessed to determine where the soil samples should be collected, and then takes the laboratory analysis and applied the prescription rates of nutrients.

The homeowner can do the same thing, just not necessarily with a GPS unit, but they can collect soil samples from the front yard, the side yards, backyards, and follow the recommendations the laboratory has for those soil samples.”

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