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4 Reasons Why Soil Testing Is Important for Agricultural Purposes

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Advice on soil testing can be very academic, but there are some incredibly simple reasons why farmers should do it. In this article, we’ll break down the 4 most important reasons to get your soils tested at least once every 4-5 years.

Firstly, what is Soil Testing?

Soil testing is the process of analysing soil for nutrients and minerals. It helps farmers, agriculture consultants and garden owners determine the health and fertility of their soil.

So, why get your soil tested?

Plants absorb essential nutrients from the soil through their roots – this is partly how they grow. When these nutrients are absorbed by the plant from the soil, then they must be replaced back to the soil. The soil is not an infinite store. It will deplete in a short time.

When nutrients in soil are present at optimal, balanced levels, landowners can maximise their crop yield and quality. In fact, about 60% of crop yields depend on soil fertility.

Once you understand your soil’s condition you can make key decisions on your fertiliser needs. This allows you to both lower fertiliser costs and avoid over-fertilisation:

Lower fertiliser costs.

Soil tests allow you to identify the key nutrients your soil needs more of, so you can make an informed decision on the correct fertiliser in the right quantity for your soil’s needs. In the past year, fertiliser costs have increased by 2.5 times and may not decrease for some time.

Farmers are looking for ways to reduce their nitrogen input to soil without a loss of yield. One of the best ways to maxamise your output is to match your nitrogen usage to the optimum for the crop you’re growing.

A total nitrogen soil test along with a mineralisable nitrogen soil test will allow landowners to estimate the amount of nitrogen that is released from permanent storage. This quantity of nitrogen can be deducted from the year’s nitrogen storage.

Avoid Over-Ferilitisation.

Without a soil test, you risk applying fertiliser in areas where you don’t need it. Applying excessive amounts of fertiliser can result in a loss or waste of nutrients from leaching. It can also cause water pollution and may lead to the depletion of aquatic organisms in rivers and lakes.

This occurs because the leached nutrients that enters the water causes nutrient enrichment and results in excessive plant growth, known as eutrophication. This excessive plant growth causes excessive oxygen uptake from the water, which leads to the suffocation of aquatic life.

Avoid soil degradation.

Without updated information on the soil’s condition from a lab test, it becomes difficult to maintain your soil’s physical condition. Without proper management, your soil’s structure can compact. Compacted soil causes poor drainage, poor root development, poor aeration, water logging, anerobic conditions and ultimately yield loss.

Few farmers in Ireland perform physical tests, but they are essential to check for the signs of soil degradation.  A soil bulk density test is a good indicator of soil compaction. Soil compaction can be reversed by a mechanical aerator.

The Economic Case for Soil Testing

A soil test along with a basic soil test report costs less than €20. This soil test report covers a large area of up to 4 hectares of agricultural land. This works out as €5 a hectare. Compare this small cost with the considerable average net revenue per hectare of land, which ranges from €280 to €550 per hectare.

What are your options for soil testing?

If you’re interested in getting your soil tested, Southern Scientific offers a range of soil analysis suites.

We have everything you need to get started here. Find out more: