Whether you are growing vegetables, fruits, or even grass, these plants require adequate nutrition. Plants need 17 essential elements to complete their life cycle. Each nutrient plays a specific role in the plant and a nutritional imbalance (deficiency or toxicity) of any one of these can impact production. Before applying soil amendments, it is important to understand what nutrients your plants need.
A soil test is less expensive than improper soil management. Soil testing is a management tool that can have a high impact on your production and operation’s profitability. To improve your soil, it is important to know the current pH level, the nutrient levels, and the type and amount of fertilizer and lime to provide optimum soil fertility to your specific crop. A soil test can help provide this information!
How can a soil analysis help your production?
- Helps you make informed management decisions.
- Provides a guideline for the amount of lime or fertilizer needed to correct nutritional imbalances.
- Shows nutrient levels in the soil, which can help to eliminate unnecessary fertilizer applications.
What is the process to take a soil sample?
First, select and print the proper soil testing form (link below). The website has descriptions for each form to help in the selection process.
- To access soil test forms, visit the UF/IFAS Extension Soil Testing Laboratory website.
Follow the instructions on the testing form.
- In general, you’ll start by determining which areas you will sample. If there are areas with different crops, soil color, cropping history, or problem areas, test these separately.
- Collect subsamples throughout the area and put them together in a bucket to make a composite sample. Specific sample depth and quantity of subsamples will be indicated on the form.
- Spread sample out to dry. Once dry label a paper bag and place about 1 pint of soil in the bag.
- Use instructions on the form to fill out the information. Make sure your sample ID on the form matches the sample ID on the soil bag.
- Ship the sample, test form, and check or money order to the UF/IFAS Extension Soil Testing Laboratory (address on form).
The soil results will be emailed to you. Reach out to your Extension agent if you need assistance interpreting the soil test results or fertilizer recommendations.
For more information on soil testing, visit the UF/IFAS Soil Testing Laboratory FAQ page.