Soil Testing

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Ellie5, Jul 8, 2005.

  1. Ellie5

    Ellie5 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    120
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2005
    I'm thinking of getting my soil from my pastures tested, but havn't a clue where to start-nor what to test for, or how to read the results whether they are good or bad for my purposes.

    I have horses and goats, and just want to know how healthy my land is, and what areas I could try to improve upon (if that's possible). Has anyone done this before? What are the basic tests I should have run?
     
  2. bugstabber

    bugstabber Chief cook & weed puller Supporter

    Messages:
    5,636
    Joined:
    May 12, 2002
    Location:
    South Dakota
    A college or university with an agricultural program would have a soil testing lab. You could check with your extension office to see what they recommend.
     

  3. gilberte

    gilberte Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    1,779
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2004
    Location:
    Maine
    What bugstabber said. We use the University of Maine. They send us a kit containing instructions and sample boxes, it's very simple really. Try a google search for "university of (whatever state your in)" + "soil testing"
     
  4. LittleJohn

    LittleJohn Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    140
    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2005
    around here we usualy go thru the soil & water conservation. I think they even let you have one for free but you will probalby need more than that for pasture.
     
  5. Ellie5

    Ellie5 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    120
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2005
    Thank you! I'm assuming they would be able to suggest which tests to run for my purposes?
     
  6. bugstabber

    bugstabber Chief cook & weed puller Supporter

    Messages:
    5,636
    Joined:
    May 12, 2002
    Location:
    South Dakota
    Just tell them what you told us, you want to check the overall health of the pasture. They may or may not ask if you graze or cut the plants.
     
  7. TrailDog

    TrailDog Member

    Messages:
    11
    Joined:
    May 5, 2005
    Location:
    Kentucky
    Ellie,

    A basic soil test will tell you the pH, along with the phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and zinc levels. Then, a county extension agent should be able to give you specific fertilizer and lime recommendations based on this test and what you're growing. The fee will range from $0 to $10 in most places.

    TrailDog
     
  8. Thumper/inOkla.

    Thumper/inOkla. Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    594
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    centeral Okla. S of I-40, E of I-35
    I opted for a comperhensive soil test with organic recomendations, through Peaceful Valley farm Supply www.groworganic.com. total cost was near $60 it is only the 2nd time in 40 yrs. that I have paid for a soil test. And knew I needed more than NPK.
    It turned out that we are deficient in everything execpt magnesium and iron.

    The test covered, ph, organic content,N (nitrogen),P (phosphorus),K (potassium),
    Mg (Magnesium), Ca (calcium), Na (sodium), SO4-S (sulfur), Zn (zinc),
    Mn (Manganese), Fe (iron), Cu (copper), B (boron)

    The booklet explains each item. and tells what you need to fix it.
    I have goats, sheep and horses, we are so low on copper health problems are showing up. Now I understand why and how to fix it long term.

    soil testing is a good thing.
     
  9. luvrulz

    luvrulz Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    3,232
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2005
    Location:
    Kentucky
    We were putting in over 1,000 blueberry bushes and wanted to know how our soil stacked up with regard to blueberries. We took 3 samples from totally different areas and paid $7 for each sample. We took them to the county extension agency and they sent it in for us and it did take about 3 weeks for the results to come back.

    They asked what we were putting in and told us speicifcally how it stacked up for bb. It's excellent to know and I don't know why you couldn't just tell them that you wanted to know for grazing or general purpose, however you wanted to call it!

    You might start your search there - they're an excellent ressource for us - from sheep shearing to 4H questions - to AI-ing our cows!

    Good luck!
    Joellen
     
  10. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    Messages:
    15,598
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    Most soils labs will provide a form that you fill out and send in with your sample. On the form you will check off what tests you will want run and what crops that will be grown. In your case, just check the pasture box. Unless you are having specific problems with your herd, I would recommend just having the labs "standard" or "routine" soil test conducted.

    As someone all ready mentioned, your state university is likely to have a soils laboratory that you can send the analysis to. If you seek the assistance of ag extension, NRCS or the SWCD, they will be sending your sample to the state lab.

    If you state does not have a soils lab, my recommendation is to send your sample to one of these private soils labs:
    A&L Analytical Labs
    Midwest Labs
    Dairy Land Labs/

    And don;t worry about being able to interpret the soil test results. The lab wiil do that for you and provide you with any recommended fertilizer and lime recommendations.
     
  11. Ellie5

    Ellie5 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    120
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2005
    Thanks!! No evident problems so far with the animals that I can see though I'm no expert. They all look healthy & very well fed, and I do supply mineral blocks, but I just don't want to ruin the soil for the next generation, and/or do whatever I can to preserve and enhance the soil. Also, according to one map, we are low in selenium, but I want to know how low & if I should indeed be doing something about it.

    Whew! It makes me feel better knowing I won't have to try to figure out the results. The tests sound pretty cheap. I was expecting much higher prices, so that's a plus too.

    Thanks all!
     
  12. longrider

    longrider Southern Gent

    Messages:
    421
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2005
    Location:
    Opelika Alabama.
    Soil testing is sooooo important. nearly all county extension offices have labs that will test your soil for a fee. its worth it.

    sit down and draw a map of your property and mark the spots where you take the sample. put your own reference numbers on it like 0001,0002, etC...in order to keep track of your plots health. How many samples you take is up to you but a couple on each end if its a small garden. if you have a couple of acres you may want to take 4 or more.

    keep the info they send you as it will help you decide what will go where each growing season.

    last year i plowed up a new field at my mothers house. the first thing i did was take two samples at opposite ends. which allowed me to apply the right amount of lime right off. when i planted my seed i used a unique scheme which compounded my produce. my mothers neighbor whome i was in a bit of a competion with was green at the health and height of my veggies.

    the thing is, i didnt wait. i got a jump on the season and the neighbor:)
     
  13. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

    Messages:
    6,844
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    A couple of comments:

    1. If you send the exact same samples to five different labs, you will get back five different analysis and recommendations, which can vary widely. Heck, they won't even all agree on pH. If you go with one consistently, such as through your county ag agent, as least they might be correct or wrong consistently.

    2. I don't care where it comes from, recommendation for lime will be 1-2 tons per acre.

    3. pH is not a good indicator on the need for calcium. A lot of different things affect pH. What you need to ask for is trace element analysis, which will include the base saturation of calcium. 80% up is considered the minimum by some. To get to it, you may have to add many tons of limestone per acre. If you don't want to affect pH, then go with gypsum. See if your local library can get you a copy to More Food from Soil Science: The natural chemistry of Lime in Agriculture and Olean Farm, U.S.A., both by Dr. V. A. Tiedjens. This isn't a sales pitch, but I happen to have some copies of More Food from Soil Science available for $20.00 postpaid.

    4. Be aware not all limestone is the same. For example limestone high in, I believe magnesium, can really overdose your soils on it. When I first started to have limestone spread it was $12.50 ton. Last time it was $22.50 ton, with the price slated to go up again largely due to just an increase in the cost of mining/crushing and truck fuel and maintenance cost.
     
  14. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    Messages:
    15,598
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    What Ken says is true, but don't be convinced that you need calcium or lime without a soil test. I have no idea where you live, but many soils west of the Mississippi River require neither.

    And soil testing is kinda like blood testing, you'lre likely to get a slightly different result evertime you have it tested. Soils are the most complex matrix that you'll ever run into. This is why it is so important to take many "grab" samples from a field (15 to 20 samples) and mix them thoroughly before sending the sample in for analysis.