RALEIGH — With harvest nearing completion, growers and some home gardeners are likely beginning to think about taking soil samples to prepare for the next growing season. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reminds growers that samples submitted by Nov. 30 will be processed for free. Processing for those arriving between Dec. 1 and March 31, 2016, will cost $4 per sample.
This year the Agronomic Services Division is delaying the start of the peak-season fee until Dec. 1, the latest date allowed by law. This later start date is intended to help growers whose ability to collect soil samples has been hindered by an unusually wet fall.
To avoid the peak-season fee, soil samples need to be delivered to the Agronomic Division by 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30. Clients who choose to use a private delivery service or the U.S. Postal Service need to account for possible shipping delays to ensure that delivery happens before the start of the peak-season fee. There will be no after-hours access to the Agronomic Division’s loading dock during the Thanksgiving holiday, Nov. 26-29.
This is the third year for the peak-season soil testing fee for samples submitted during the lab’s four busiest months.
Receipts generated by the peak-season soil fee are used by the department to help alleviate testing delays. Since the fee was implemented, the Agronomic Division has used the receipts to add robotic enhancements, replace aging laboratory instruments and hire skilled chemists on a temporary basis during the lab’s busiest months.
Nearly all residential soil samples can be collected April through November when the fee is not in effect.
“Since its implementation in 2013, the peak-season fee has been successful in increasing efficiency for our soil testing lab, and also helping growers with a shorter turnaround time,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “In 2012 before the fee period, the lab analyzed around 42 percent of the total sample load for the year by the end of December. That number increased to about 58 percent in 2013 and 2014. This tells us that growers are trying to sample early. Turnaround time was back to two weeks by the end of January for each of the last two years, as compared to the mid-March or later when there was no fee.”
During the fee period, sample drop off times at the Eaddy Building will be between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. There will be no after-hours drop off of soil samples permitted during peak season.
Growers are encouraged to submit sample information forms online and pay with a credit card using a secure online payment service called PayPoint. Online submission can be accessed through the PALS homepage at www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/PALS/ after a user account is established under the Utility link.
If faster turnaround time is needed, the lab offers an expedited soil testing service on a limited basis. Growers can purchase expedited shippers, which can hold up to 36 soil samples, for $200 each while supplies last. The expedited shipper comes with a guaranteed turnaround time of two weeks upon delivery to the lab, excluding the Christmas holiday season where three weeks is guaranteed. Samples arriving in expedited shippers are excluded from the peak-season fee.
Contact the Agronomic Services Division at 919-733-2655 for questions regarding the peak-season soil testing fee, online sample submission or the purchase of expedited shippers.