A website from UGA Cooperative Extension

I feel like we have gotten more soil samples than normal this year. I hope this means that people are actually paying attention to my recommendations.

It is never too late to geta soil sample, but you may be too late for what you want to plant right then. It is best to get a soil sample well ahead of planting.  The main reason is to be able to adjust the pH if needed. 

We can raise the pH of a soil by adding lime, but it is not an instant process.  For the lime to reduce acidity (raise the pH) it has to react within the soil.  This process can take months.  That is why it is good to sample early.  Either way if you have not taken a soil sample recently of your food plot, garden or lawn it is never a bad time to get this done.

What else can we learn from a soil sample?  First, it will show you the major or macronutrients in the soil already.  Secondly it will let you know how much fertilizer you should apply to grow a successful crop.  Some of the crops that we grow require certain nutrients to produce acceptable yields.  This can be expressed in pounds per acre or per 1000 ft2.  If the recommendation is given in pounds per acre, you can determine how much per 1000 ft2, by dividing by 43.56.

It is important to know that the soil report will usually tell you the amount of actual nutrients needed.  If it says you need 120 pounds of nitrogen per acre to grow sweet corn that means you would need 1200 pounds of 10-10-10 or 353 pounds of 34-0-0.  And you though all that math you learned in school was worthless. 

I tell most people that our recommendations are for a perfect world, but not all of us live in that world.  If you need to adjust your fertility levels due to access, or even costs we can help tailor a program for you.  I won’t say that you can have the most productive crops if you don’t try to follow our recommendations, but there are some things we can do to maximize your inputs. 

Splitting fertilizer applications can help to reduce losses to leaching or runoff.  Incorporating fertilizer can also help reduce losses from runoff and volatilization.  Only putting the nutrients needed can also help reduce costs while not sacrificing crop yields.  All of these things can reduce wasted nutrients and money, but adjusting the pH is probably the most important factor in nutrient availability and uptake by the crop.

Take a soil sample now to save money down the road. You cannot fertilize to save a crop if your pH is too low. I would almost always spend my money on lime before fertilizer. Contact your County Agent to learn more about soil sampling and to get an explanation of your soil report.

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