Soil fertility summary emphasizes need for soil testing
click image to zoom If you are going to apply nutrients in spring you need to know how much to put on. Without soil testing, nutrient applications are a guess, and there is no room for guessing in today’s atmosphere of narrow margins due to varying fertilizer prices, and public concern of the environmental pollution. Testing soils reduce the risks involved with applying nutrients. What kind of fertilizer do you need to achieve your yield goals? Well, a good place to start would be the MU soil and plant testing lab.
Soil testing is a farmer’s best guide to the wise and efficient use of fertilizer and soil amendments. A soil test is like taking an inventory of the nutrients available to plants, which are too high, too low or just right. While plant growth and prior yields may offer clues to nutrient availability, a farmer won’t precisely know until they test their soil. Although soil-testing kits are available in garden centers, laboratory testing is more reliable, and the results from laboratories are accompanied with interpretations and recommendations.
Soil fertility fluctuates throughout the growing season each year.
The quantity and availability of mineral nutrients are altered by the addition of fertilizers, manure, and lime in addition to leaching and de-nitrification losses. Furthermore, large quantities of mineral nutrients are removed from soils as a result of plant growth and development, and by the harvesting of crops. The soil test will determine the current fertility status. It also provides the necessary information needed to maintain the optimum fertility year after year.
The soil test takes the guesswork out of fertilization and is extremely cost effective. It not only eliminates the waste of money spent on unnecessary fertilizers, but also eliminates over-usage of fertilizers, hence helping to protect the environment.
Soil samples can be taken in the spring or fall for established sites.
Although fall and early spring are typical times to test soil, one can really do it any time the soil is not frozen, but avoid sampling after recent fertilizer or lime applications. For new sites, soil samples can be taken anytime when the soil is workable. However, fall is a preferred time to take soil tests if one wants to avoid the spring rush. Fall soil testing will allow you ample time to apply lime to raise the soil pH.
As clearly evident from the statewide soil fertility status summary, soil testing is highly recommended for field crops. The cost of soil testing is minor in comparison to the cost of seed and plants and labor. Correcting a problem before planting is much simpler and cheaper than afterwards. Routine fertilizer or lime applications can result in excessive soil nutrient levels or deleterious soil pH. For example many fertilizers tend to have lower soil pH, and after several years of fertilization the pH may drop below desirable.
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