Did you know that the UGA Soil, Plant, and Water Laboratory provides testing services and expert recommendations for resource management to Georgia residents? Soil and water testing is essential for homeowners and producers alike, but there are a variety of other tests that Lincoln County Extension can provide.

A soil test is used to determine the fertility of the soil in a particular area and is the basis for fertilizer and lime recommendations. The nutrient content of soil can be extremely variable across the state, county, and even within one’s own property. While the primary purpose of soil tests is to improve fertility for planting, they are also used to monitor fertility over time, and can be used to summarize soil fertility in a county, region, or state. Soil tests can be performed at any time of year but must be done at least two to three months prior to the time you intend to plant. Consecutive tests of the same field should be taken at the same time of year when tracking fertility over time. Once medium to high fertility has been established in your soil, samples should be taken every two or three years. Whether you are a producer looking for the best yield from your crops and forages or a homeowner trying to improve your lawn and ornamental plants, taking a soil test is an essential step in the process.

The use of water testing through an agency like the University of Georgia’s Soil, Plant, and Water Laboratory can help identify any contaminants in a privately-owned water source and provide guidance on how to treat potential water quality issues. We offer a basic water test that looks at water pH, hardness, and mineral content. Typically, this is a good option if you have an off smell or taste that you are concerned about. The other sample we run frequently is bacterial testing, which looks for coliform and E. Coli bacteria. Bacterial testing can indicate the safety of your drinking water source. Based on your water test results, sometimes shock chlorination or water filtration systems are recommended. There are specific protocols to follow when pulling water samples for testing, so please contact our office for assistance beforehand.

The final test we run frequently is forage and feed testing for our livestock producers. Forage quality is often determined based on qualitative measures such as appearance (stem to leaf ratio, presence of seed heads), contents (weeds, foreign materials), and other visually determined characteristics. However, qualitative assessment of forages is not always representative of the actual nutrition available to the animal. A simple forage test can provide valuable information such as Relative Feed Value, protein, structural carbohydrates, and nitrate levels in a sample. Nitrates are particularly important during times of plant stress- we had a sample in our office recently that was unsafe to feed cattle due to nitrate content. Forage testing and subsequently matching forage quality with nutrient requirements allows producers to maximize their inputs and minimize their feeding costs.

            Soil and water compose the majority of our samples that we send to the lab, but are not the only tests we can provide. If you have need for additional testing services, please contact us at 706-359-3233 or uge3181@uga.edu.

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