Soil Sampling Campaign


Ag Biz News Column
Chad Gulley
County Extension Agent—Ag/NR
Smith County


Soil Testing Campaign Underway

 Soil is basic to all agricultural ventures including the home lawn, farming, raising livestock, and the home garden.  Knowing what your soil condition is in can help save you money while provide adequate nutrients at the correct amounts to our plants.  Soil types vary around East Texas with many soils being acidic.  The only true way to determine your soil condition is to perform a soil test.

A soil test typically costs $10 to $15 depending on the laboratory performing the analysis and the results you desire.  A soil test tells the soil pH, amount and availability of macronutrients and micronutrients, and other points as specified on the soil test data sheet.

So what causes soils to become acidic?  Man-made factors, natural factors, environment, climate, and cultural factors can all contribute to a soil being acidic.  The most common factors causing soil acidity are parent material, leaching, and cultural practices.

Soil pH is a measure of hydrogen ion activity in the soil solution.  The soil pH scale extends from 0 to 14; soil pH ranging in the 6.6 to 7.3 range is considered neutral.  A pH range below 6.6 is considered acidic while a pH range above 7.3 is considered alkaline or basic.  Although a decrease in soil pH from 6.0 to 5.0 does not appear significant, there is a 10-fold increase in soil acidity for every whole unit change in soil pH.

Optimum nutrient uptake by most crops occurs at a soil pH at near 7.0.  The availability of fertilizer nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium generally is reduced as soil pH decreases.  Fertilizer efficiency and crop performance are reduced when soil acidity is not controlled.

Limestone is used to raise pH.  All limestone is not the same and may react more or less efficiently based on the particle size and neutralizing value of the liming material.  Smaller particles react more rapidly in the soil to change soil pH.  Limestone in Texas is sold according to the ECCE value (Effective Calcium Carbonate Equivalent).  The ECCE is expressed as a percentage.

The East Texas Farm and Ranch Club, Smith County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Smith County are working together to collect soil samples for our fall 2012 Soil Testing Campaign.  Samples for agricultural purposes are being collected now until October 19.  Producers may submit any number of samples they desire.  The Smith County Soil and Water Conservation District will pay the cost of analysis for two agricultural samples per Smith County producer with the producer paying the fee for the remainder of the samples submitted.

Soil testing bags and information forms are available upon request from the AgriLife Extension Office at 1517 West Front Street, Suite 116 in the Cotton Belt Building here in Tyler.  For more information you may also call (903) 590-2980.  The samples may be turned into our office or at the October 18 East Texas Farm and Ranch Club monthly meeting at the Overton Research and Extension Center.  Once collected the samples will be carried to the laboratory for analysis and the results will be discussed at the November meeting of the East Texas Farm and Ranch Club.

Dr. Leon Young, Professor and Soil Testing Laboratory Director at Stephen F. Austin State University, will be the speaker for the November 15 program.  Dr. Young will go over the test results and discuss the importance of soil testing to our forage program.

Soil testing is an important tool to determine nutritive requirements for forages and other crops for our agricultural ventures.  Fall is a good time to get this done in case lime is needed to raise the pH of your soil.

Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.


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