Soil fertility summary emphasizes need for soil testing
The test results are only as good as the sample taken. It is extremely important to provide a representative sample to the testing lab so that a reliable test and recommendations can be made for the entire area. This can be accomplished by submitting a composite sample. Take 15 random samples in a zigzag pattern at plow depth, mix well, and submit a sub-sample from it to the lab. We recommend that you divide your field and submit one sample for each 40 acres.
Testing your soil for nutrients and pH is important to provide balanced application of nutrients, while avoiding over application. At University of Missouri Soil Testing Laboratory we offer a regular fertility test that includes measurements of pH, lime requirement, organic matter, available phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and cation exchange capacity. Soil pH greatly influences plant nutrient availability. Adjusting pH often corrects the nutrient problem for most plants. The optimum pH for most plants is between 6.0 and 7.0. The lime requirement measurement indicates the amount of amendment (usually lime) necessary to correct a pH problem. Organic matter has several roles in the soil; generally the more organic matter the better. Nitrogen recommendations are based on the organic matter level. Phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are all essential plant nutrients. The cation exchange capacity (CEC) value is a measure of the soil’s ability to hold nutrients.
Test costs vary according to the number of nutrients tested. The University of Missouri Soil Testing Laboratory charges $10.00 (when submitting direct to the lab) for a regular fertility test. Several other specific analyses are available. These include but are not limited to soil analysis for sulfur, micro-nutrients (Zinc, Iron, Copper, Manganese, Boron), salt content (electrical conductivity), heavy metal analysis, and soil texture. Test reports provide interpretation and nutrient recommendations. The turnaround time for a soil test is 24 hours. Customers have to add mailing time to get the reports by regular mail services.
You can contact your Regional Agronomy/Horticulture/Natural Resources Specialist or local County Extension Office to obtain Sample Information Forms and sample boxes, and can submit samples through their offices. These Regional Specialists at your local Extension Offices can be a source of information for interpreting and personalizing your soil test reports and recommendations. Samples can be also submitted directly to the University of Missouri Soil Testing labs at 23 Mumford Hall, Columbia, MO 65211 (Tel: 573-882-0623). Customers can drop the sample off at their County University Extension offices or in person at the MU Soil Testing Lab located at 23 Mumford Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia or at the Delta Soil Testing Lab located the Delta Research Center at Portageville or mail them in. Every sample submitted should have a sample information form duly filled. Samples submitted directly to the lab should be accompanied by a check written in favor of MU Soil Testing for the amount due.
The lab maintains a comprehensive web site at http://soilplantlab.missouri.edu/soil/. The site includes information on how to collect soil and plant samples, and how and where to submit samples. The web site provides a list of services provided by the lab, costs of tests, sample information forms, location of the lab and other relevant information. The lab also provides web access of soil test results with a specifically assigned password to clients upon request. We also have the option for electronic mailing of data if required.
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