In today’s economy, consumers are always looking for ways to save money. One of the most practical ways to save money is to have your soil tested. Soil testing is a service provided by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at their Agronomic Division in Raleigh.
For farmers, soil testing is the first step in planning an economical and environmentally sound fertilization program. The efficient use of nutrients can help reduce fertilizer costs and environmental concerns without reducing yield or quality. This requires a well-planned fertilization program based on soil sampling, wise selection of nutrients based on needs and costs and proper application of fertilizers. For homeowners, soil testing takes the guesswork out of maintaining the soil in optimum condition for plant growth and development.
A soil test will access the present levels of major plant nutrients, soil pH, and micronutrients. Recommendations will include the amounts of lime and fertilizer, if necessary, to meet the requirements of the specific plant or crop being grown.
Collect samples three to six months before planting time. Taking good samples, filling out paperwork properly, and packaging samples for delivery in a well-organized manner are important.
Soil testing will be free starting April 1st through November 30th for soil samples. Fees for other specific tests including plant tissue analysis, solution analysis, and nematodes will remain the same. These fees are being implemented to encourage more growers to sample early and for improvements to the agronomic lab such as new equipment, additional peak-season personnel and computer-programming enhancements. So, it is very important to get your samples to Raleigh by November 30, to avoid the fees of $4.00 per sample.
Soil sample boxes and forms can be picked up at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension – Sampson County Center, 55 Agriculture Place on 421 South of Clinton. Samples can be mailed to the lab in Raleigh or dropped off at the Extension Center where they will be delivered to Raleigh. Extension agents can also assist you in interpreting the soil test results or developing a soil treatment plan.
Remember, having your soil tested before planting gives you the opportunity to increase your yields on the farm or improve your landscape around the house.
James Hartsfield is an area extension agent specializing in farm management serving Sampson and Duplin counties.