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Soil Testing: Why It’s Important and How to Get Started

Did you know there is a simple tool available to help landowners and producers know how much fertilizer to use in their gardens, lawns and fields? This tool is a soil sample test. A soil test first determines the nutrients available in your soil. Then, the nutrient requirements of the forage you wish to grow are considered and fertilizer recommendations are provided based off your soil test. You can use these recommendations to apply the correct amount of each fertilizer component in your pasture. More forage growth is seen because your forages have the correct amount of required nutrients. Additionally, less nutrients (and money) are wasted compared to fertilizing fields with a “best guess” mixture and amount that lacks scientific calculations based off your soil.

Taking a soil test in your pasture is easy. You just need to contact your local Extension Office or Regional Extension Agent. You should collect about 20 samples of soil from various locations in your field. Dig soil 6-8 inches deep, or use a soil probe that can be borrowed from the County Extension Office or Agent. Once samples are collected, mix them well and place 1 pint in a soil sample box to send to the Soil Testing Laboratory at Auburn University. Soil sample boxes, information sheets, and other supplies for soil testing are available from your County Extension Office. More information can be found online at: http://www.aces.edu/anr/soillab/forms/index.php

Your soil test results allow you to properly fertilize your pastures, which leads to better forage growth and less waste. Why guess next time you purchase fertilizer? Get optimum forage growth and increased forage availability for your livestock by performing an easy soil test. For more information on this and other Extension topics, please contact Sarah Dickinson, Animal Sciences and Forages Regional Extension Agent, at 256-537-0024, sed0029@auburn.edu or the Chambers County Extension Office at 334-864-9373. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer.