Ag Notes: Fall an ideal time to do soil tests

October 28, 2003|JERRY LITTLE

Time and money are two benefits of taking soil core samples during the fall.

Fall soil sampling allows you ample time to implement research-based fertility recommendations before spring planting.

When you receive the soil test results, read the pH and lime recommendations. You may need to apply lime to neutralize soil acidity.

To be fully effective, agricultural lime should be applied in the fall because it takes about six months to break down and react with the soil. So, the earlier you spread lime, the better.

All recommended fertilizers, except nitrogen, can be applied this fall.

Buying fertilizer in the fall usually will save you money because prices are cheaper due to lower demand. Also, we usually have drier soil in the fall making it easier to get the spreader truck into the field.


Farmers who don't test fields and pastures can only guess at fertility needs.

Estimating how much fertilizer is needed often results in applying more than necessary. And this is an unnecessary expense, not to mention the negative environmental effect.

The Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service has soil sample bags, details on taking accurate samples, and other pertinent information.

Your soil analysis report is based on that little pint of soil you submitted.

For the most accurate report, take the best soil samples possible. These tips will help.

You'll need to take different samples for various land uses such as agricultural fields, lawn, garden, fruit trees, ornamental shrubs and azaleas because these may have distinct fertility requirements.

Take a sample from poor growing areas and from adjacent areas of good growth. Mark each sample with a letter, or numbers on a field map. Collect at least 10 soil cores for small areas and up to 20 cores for larger fields.

How deeply you take cores for farm use depends on the tillage system used. For tilled areas, take cores from the surface to plow depth, usually six to eight inches.

Take cores down to a four-inch depth in no-till fields and pastures.

For home lawns, take cores from the surface down to four inches. For garden, ornamentals and fruit trees, take cores down to six to eight inches.

Be sure to take all cores from an area at the same depth.

After you've collected soil cores, put them in a clean, dry plastic bucket, crush the soil and thoroughly mix it. Allow this to air dry. When it dries, fill the sample bag and drop it by the extension office.

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Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture/natural resources.

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