Soil Testing: Definition, Why, When, Importance, Goals

Table of Contents

Soil testing is a powerful tool as it decides the inputs needed for productive and economic development. Proper soil testing ensures that adequate fertilizer is added to fulfill the crop requirements when taking advantage of the nutrients already available in the soil.

What is Soil Testing

Soil testing is a collection of different chemical processes that decide the amount of plant nutrients available in the soil, but also the chemical, physical and biological properties of the soil that are essential for plant nutrition or “soil health” Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P2O5), potassium (K2O), pH, humus material, total CaCO3, usable lime, organic matter, total sulphur (S), trace elements and other physical characteristics are calculated through chemical soil examination for the content of essential plant nutrients (capacity, permeability, density, pH – value). Soil research means:

  • Take samples of soil
  • Analysis of samples by laboratory
  • Interpretation of the findings by issuing guidelines for fertilizers.

What is the importance of soil testing for a farmer?

For many reasons, a soil test is important:

  • Maximizing crop production.
  • Protecting the atmosphere from pollution by runoff and leaching of excess fertilizers.
  • Helping to identify plant culture issues, improving the nutritional balance of rising media, and saving money and saving resources by using only the amount of fertilizer necessary.

Analyses of pre-plant media give an example of possible nutritional shortages, pH imbalance or soluble salts in abundance. For growers who combine their own media, this is especially necessary.

It will also allow you to recognize the criteria for lime which can be used to diagnose problem areas. As the findings are just as good as the sample you take, it is very critical that the sampling methodology is right. For farms that must complete a nutrient management plan, soil testing is often a prerequisite. A significant instrument for controlling crop nutrition and soluble salt levels is media testing during the growing season.

What are the goals of soil testing?

The goals of the study of soil are:

  • To assess the extent of nutrient availability or the need for its implementation,
  • To forecast the growth in yields and fertilization profitability (poor soils do not always provide yield increase due to fertilization because of possible limiting factors)
  • To provide the basis for the measurement of the fertilization needed for each crop,
  • To assess the status (supply) of each nutrient factor and to decide the compensation package simultaneously (nutrient management).

It is easier to calculate the amount of fertilizer needed to produce good and high-quality yields, depending on the nutrient content in the soil obtained by chemical analysis and the needs of the crop for a given yield. When assessing the number of nutrients, it should be remembered that up to 80 percent of nitrogen, 40 percent of phosphorus, 60 percent of potassium, and 40 percent of magnesium can be consumed at the best state in soil plants. Good-quality soil analysis is the cornerstone of fertilization preparation and, thus, the quality of the whole production cycle, resulting in high quality and yield and improved farm management.

When to do an inspection of the soil?

After harvesting crops and before any fertilization, soil samples for examination are taken at maximum soil humidity. Around the edge of the plot or where mineral fertilizers are unevenly distributed, the soil must not be depressed, otherwise, the sample will not be reflective and the resulting results will not show the actual situation. The study is carried out every 4-5 years in the case of permanent crops (orchards and vineyards). How will sampling be correctly performed? Samples are obtained with a probe, but they can also be taken with a shovel. If a shovel is removed from the sample, the process is as follows:

  • Excavate a pit
  • Cut the soil vertically around the pit rim,
  • The shovel must be removed so that it does not fall off the soil.
  • Sample formation – Longitudinally along the center of the shovel soil with a diameter of approx. 5 cm is permissible and left and right of the sample soil is cut and discarded.

Soil nutrient levels often vary from year to year, so before planting any new crop, it is necessary to conduct soil sampling and testing. The implementation of a fertility management program is critical for farmers to pursue certain prescribed measures for soil sampling and testing. Standards for conducting soil sampling and testing must be established to ensure correct results. Alberta Agriculture lays out some recommendations here:

  • To decide representative areas, begin by assessing each field
  • Owing to the potential for varying nutrient needs, large areas within fields with distinct soil characteristics, such as texture, should be sampled and fertilized as separate fields.
  • Samples from 15 to 20 positions within each area should be collected at depths of 0.6, 6 to 12, and 12 to 24 inches.
  • Composite samples should be bulked into each depth, air dried and submitted to a reputable soil testing facility.

Reasons why soil testing is needed

  1. Awareness about how to improve the state of the soil

In order to grow healthy crops, fertile soils are important. It has to be assessed first to increase soil fertility. The chemical, physical, and biological properties of the soil decide the fertility of the soil. There are observable properties such as soil composition, colour and structure. The chemical makeup of the soil, however, is difficult to see. This is what needs to be measured and why it is important to sample soil. To assess the nutrient content and pH level of the soil, soil tests are used. With this knowledge, it is possible to define the exact type and volume of fertilizer that needs to be added to increase soil fertility.

  1. This is the first step in controlling soil fertility.

Farmers can increase the efficiency of nutrients and water usage with a proper soil fertility management plan and improve their agricultural productivity. The first step towards proper soil fertility control is soil monitoring. Soil monitoring provides useful evidence and helps you improve the health of the soil.

  1. Minimize Spending on Fertilizers

If the exact form and quantity of fertilizers your soil and crops require is known, you would not spend cash on needless fertilizers. In addition, scarce commodities are inorganic fertilizers in general, and nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium. Their rates have been that over the years and it is wise to react now to the imminent changes since this pattern is set to last.

  1. Over-fertilized

Applying fertilizer without understanding your soil’s exact nutrient requirements could lead to over-fertilization. You will stop using an unnecessary quantity of fertilizer by checking the soil and getting fertilizer advice. For your crops and the climate, this is safer. The effect of over-fertilization of crops is fertilizer burning and leaves turning yellow. It could also result in the leaching of nutrients, water contamination and permanent disruption to the sea life around it.

  1. Avoid deterioration of soil

A danger to any farmer is soil erosion. It is estimated that 24 billion tons of productive soil are lost per year as a result of erosion resulting from unbalanced soil maintenance. Soil checks, accompanied by the application of the right fertilizers at the right time, ensure proper soil conservation. In addition to avoiding soil erosion risks, it is a more effective and economically interesting practice. Soil regeneration, moreover, is a complex, expensive and time-consuming operation.


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At Sabiagrik, we're dedicated to bridging the knowledge gap in the agriculture sector, helping enthusiasts transform their passion into thriving businesses.