What Does the USDA Recommend For Soil Testing and Why?
(Article re-posted from blog.soilkit.com – by Christina McInnis)
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that home and property owners conduct a professional, scientific, lab-based test of their soil annually. This should be done before application of fertilizers and soil amendments. Soil testing and scientific based treatment recommendations assure proper application of nutrients. At AgriTech Corp., the leading provider of automated easy-to-use soil testing for homeowners and professional landscapers, we are often asked “Why do we need to test and why do it every year?”
Our answer is analogous to testing in your personal health regimen. You would not take a cholesterol drug with out having a blood test to indicate you needed that medication. The same is true with your soil health. You should not use a lime treatment on your soil until you have done a professional test to confirm your pH needs adjustment.
AgriTech’s testing service, SoilKit™, gives the property owner and landscape operator a professional soil analysis along with scientific recommendations to correct nutrient deficiencies in the soil. SoilKit™ tests for the major elements of phosphorus and potassium, pH and minor elements of magnesium, calcium, boron, zinc, manganese, iron and copper.
SoilKit™ does not test for nitrogen which is an unstable element in the soil because test results can vary greatly from the time of testing to processing in the lab. Nitrogen fosters lush growth and green color. Nitrogen recommendations are based on grass type. Phosphorus aides bloom development and plant productivity while potassium develops healthy cells that promote disease and insect resistance. A high or low pH factor can cause nutrient “lockups” in the soil, and balanced minor elements promote root growth and efficient up-take of moisture and nitrogen into the plant.
SoilKit™ testing and nutrient recommendations guarantee the following:
- Application of the right nutrients and amendments
- Application of right amount of those nutrients and amendments
- Application of the above at the right time
Fertilizers have a guaranteed analysis on Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), and SoilKit’s™ nutrient recommendations are based on the soil’s deficiencies and grass or crop type. The USDA reports that homeowners apply ten times the amount of fertilizer per acre on average as farmers. Over application of fertilizer, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, causes substantial problems in the environment. This is due to runoff of excessive nutrient application into surface waters, streams and bays causing invasive plant growth, oxygen consuming algae, and red tide organisms.
Proper soil testing and exact scientific recommendations save the homeowner from the pitfall that “more is better” when good science tells us that, indeed, it is not. Plus, precise application saves the homeowner money.
The USDA recommends annual soil testing because multiple nitrogen applications during a growing season cause changes in pH balance and volume analyses of minor elements. REMEMBER, HEALTHY SOIL GROWS HEALTHY LAWNS AND GARDENS.