Agriculture

Soil testing: Why it is important

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Why Soil Testing?

Knowing the exact nutrient found in your farm soil and the pH is the first step of any healthy crop production program. Crops are usually grown on a very wide variety of soil types and different fertilizer requirements, depending with the soil health and condition. Application of many nutrients can result to imbalance in soil and eventually affecting the environment and contamination water and the creatures beneath.

What is Soil pH?

A soil’s pH is the measure of its acidity or alkalinity based on a scale of 0 to 14. Zero represents very strong acidity, while on the other hand fourteen is extreme alkalinity, and seven is neutral. The pH of an ideal soil in a farm should be in the range of 6.0 to 7.5. If the pH becomes a little imbalanced, it directly affects the availability of nutrients in the soil. Products with limestone are applied to soil that is sour or acidic, while alkaline soils require sulphur products to be applied. Adjusting the pH of a farm’s soil may take few years but is crucial to carry out the task gradually for proper nutrient uptake and plant health.

How to Get Your Soil Tested

You can get your farm’s soil tested at independent laboratories, your local cooperative extension offices, or any garden centres.

To Take a Soil Sample:

  • Use a shovel, trowel, soil probe, sampling tube, soil auger or any ideal tool;
  • Sample to a depth of 5 to 7 inches;
  • Remove all the grass, stones, thatch or debris;
  • Take 6 or 7 samples, thoroughly mix them in a plastic bucket then ensure approximately 1 pint of soil is collected;
  • Spread over a dry paper such as a newspaper and let it dry for 24 hours. Most of the labs prefer dry soil. However, some moisture may remain;
  • Label the sample and send it to the test centre, or the lab.

The results will inform the soil technicians of the recommendations that will correct its condition; from any pH adjustments or fertilizer deficiencies and allowing comprehensive approaches to fertilizing the piece of farm.

Key Advantages of Testing Farm Soil

It informs the farmer of the current health of the farm’s soil and how to improve it

 

Soil fertility is determined by the soil’s biological, chemical, and physical properties. Properties such as structure, soil texture, and colour are visible to the eye. However, it is hard to see the chemical composition of soil. Therefore, there is need for soil diagnosis and that’s why soil sampling is critical. Soil tests are used to determine the soil’s nutrient level and pH content. Armed with this information, farmers can define the quantity of fertiliser and exact type that is needed for application to improve the soil on your farm. This is essential because fertile soils are necessary to grow healthy crops.

 

Soil test leads to minimisation of fertiliser expenditure

 

Knowing the exact deficiency that your soil is experiencing will result in zero wastage of such farm inputs. The quantity and type of fertilisers your crops and soil need prevents farmers from wasting money on unnecessary extra fertiliser application. Moreover, nutrients such as potassium and phosphorus that are part of inorganic fertilisers are very limited resources. Their supply is limited or rather finite; implying that there is need to be cautious in the usage to prevent future shortage of such limited resources.

 

Soil testing results to limited over-fertilisation

 

Applying fertiliser to your soil without knowing the exact and actual nutrient that it needs will lead to over-fertilisation. Testing your soil prior and receiving informed fertiliser recommendation prevents farmers from applying excessive amount of fertilisers and minimising the related environmental damages. Over-fertilisation might result in water pollution, nutrient leaching, and irreversible harm to the aquatic life. Just a simple soil test can prevent all these negative environmental effects. Further, overuse of fertiliser may be harmful not only to the environment but also it might cause fertiliser burn to the crops.

 

Farmers can easily avoid soil degradation

 

It is estimated from research that each year more than 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil are lost because of erosion which is caused by unbalanced soil management. Furthermore, land degradation directly affects the livelihoods and health of an estimated 1.5 billion people. Soil restoration is a costly, difficult, and time-consuming process. Therefore, better soil management through soil testing is an easier route to take, and application of the right amounts of fertilisers is efficient and financially justified.

 

Farmers with fertile soils can contribute to feeding the world’s growing population

 

The current generation puts more pressure on the soil than ever before. There is need of fertile soils to produce yields that will feed the world’s ever-growing population. Improved soil health implies more crops, potentially closing the world’s food security issues. This will eventually bring a better life to millions of people. Soil testing is the first step in soil management. The activity gives farmers valuable information that helps them improve the soil’s health; healthy soils eventually imply healthy crops!

 

The importance of soil testing has been in existence since the early years. Different types of soils and variation in soil properties are important factors to note in farming. Soil texture, soil moisture, and soil chemistry are determinants of what crops can be grown and how much yield the farm can produce.

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