Farm soil testing

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Traditionally, soil testing was seen as a way to work out how much fertilizer to apply to the soil for a given crop. While its true that soil testing still provides that information, nowadays a lot more effort is put into understanding the soil's fertility, its capability, health and potential hazards. Recommendations for fertilizer are more often put into a broader context of management to improve the productive capacity of the soil, and the farm.

Fava beans are a good legume forage and green manure crop. You'll need to test for phosphorus and trace elements boron and molybdenum in particular. Also make sure your soil pH is right.

A good soil test is a comprehensive test of nutrients, hazards and physical factors for agricultural soils. It is the starting point for fertilizer recommendations, nutrient and crop strategies and soil management.

At Apps Labs we offer a comprehensive soil test called the Complete soil test. The test measures all major and most minor nutrients.

Additional factors are chloride, sodium, total carbon, total nitrogen, exchangeable acidity, pH and soil solution conductivity.

Calculations include ESP, organic matter, C/N ratio, lime requirement, CEC, base saturation, aluminium saturation, electrochemical stability index (ESI), and P saturation ratio.

Your basic report will show
- levels of nutrients along with the status for your soil and desirable range for each
- levels of physical and calculated factors with their status for your soil and desirable ranges
- relative proportions of the main cations and a comparison to ideal proportions. To find out how to collect and send sample please go to 'How to order' on our front page.

Options include organic matter both long term and fresh components.

Much of the value in soil testing is in the interpretation of the report. Your lab or advisor needs to be able to go over the report with you so you can see the 'big' picture. That way you can develope strategies by turning the figures into actions.

Remember to take into account the factors that can be observed like how well the soil is performing, its colour and structure and also historical records like cropping history.

So now you can see that soil testing is about more than calculating fertilizers! Yes you can still do a lot of that, but you should see soil testing as useful within the broader context of farm activities.

These can include:
Soil remediation
Soil fertility assessment
Soil capability assessment
Soil sampling and testing programs
Pre crop assessment
Nutrient budgets
Plant production strategies

Apps Laboratories was established as a soil testing lab. We still continue to carry out specialized tests and are active in developing and testing new soil test methods such as the reactive soil organic matter test. But nowadays we concentrate more on adding value to soil tests by offering sampling, extended results analysis and on-going support to help get the most out of soil test results. Most of our baseline soil analysis is outsourced. We use the services of a lab accredited by the Australasian Soil and Plant Analysis Council.


Figures for exchangeable acidity, cation exchange capacity and base saturation will help in deciding how much lime is needed.

To help show how soil testing can be used we have published a series of case studies and projects around the issue of soils (and water) on farms. See them at Dr Tim's soils and water blog.











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