Part 1, Section 2: Soil Fertility Management
Soil Fertility Management
A soil test is no better than the care given to taking samples. Follow the guidelines in Table 1.2-3 for taking soil samples. Not following these instruction or the instructions from your soil testing lab can invalidate your soil test results and interpretations. It is very important to completely and accurately fill out the soil test information sheet that goes to the lab with the sample (Figure 1.2-4). Mailing kits for submitting samples to the Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory are available from all Penn State Cooperative Extension offices.
Table 1.2-3. Guidelines for taking soil samples.
- Do not wait until the last minute. The best time to sample is in the summer of fall.
- Take cores from at least 15 to 20 spots randomly over the field to obtain a representative sample. One sample should not represent more than 10 to 20 acres.
- Sample between rows. Avoid old fence rows, dead furrows, and other spots that are not representative of the whole field.
- Take separate samples from problem areas if they can be treated separately.
- In cultivated fields, sample to plow depth.
- Take two samples from no-till fields: one to a 6 inch depth for lime and fertilizer recommendations, and one to a 2-inch depth to monitor surface acidity.
- Sample permanent pastures to a 3- to 4-inch depth.
- Collect the samples in a clean container.
- Mix the core samplings, allow to air-dry, and remove roots and stones.
- Fill the soil test mailing container.
- Complete the information sheet, giving all of the information requested. Be sure to include the soil name. Remember, the recommendations can be only as good as the information supplied.