The K-State Research and Extension office offers soil testing procedures for local agriculture producers, as well as homeowners.

Having soil tested is a great way to prepare for cropping systems, hay production, vegetable gardens and local fruit production.

Soil samples are received at the local level and sent to Kansas State University for analysis.

The K-State Research and Extension Soil Testing Lab provides high quality analysis of soil, plant, forage, grain, and water for farmers, homeowners and researchers.

The KSU Soil Testing lab provides a variety of analyses for producers and homeowners. Most commonly, soil is tested for pH, phosphorous, potassium, nitrate and organic matter. Additional testing can be done to determine calcium, magnesium, sodium, cation exchange capacity, iron zinc, copper, manganese, ammonium, sulfate, chloride, aluminum, texture, soluble salts and salt alkali. Samples are dried in an oven in the lab and ground using a pulverizing-type grinder. Once the sample has been analyzed and the data has been reviewed, sample sheets with recommendation are provided to the local extension agent and shared with the producer.

Soil testing provides a starting place for a homeowner or producer to begin with soil improvement.

Unless one knows the deficiencies in their soil, he or she is only guessing when to apply fertilizer. Soil testing can help to produce better crops, lawns and gardens, as well as save money and prevent runoff of excess nutrients.

Soil tests should be taken every two to four years. Problem soils should be tested every one to two years. Testing packages range in price from $12 to $20, along with shipping costs to the lab.

To receive an accurate soil analysis, soil samples must be properly collected. First, a representative sample of the entire area where plats are to be grown must be collected. Take a sample or core from at least six different areas. Do not include soil from a turf area and a garden area in the same sample. Garden area samples should be sampled from the soil surface to the depth of tillage, which is about six to eight inches. Tree, shrub and flower beds should also be sampled six to eight inches deep. Turf samples should be four inches deep.

To collect a sample, first remove debris, such as turf thatch or reside, from the top of the soil before inserting the soil prove, spade or trowel. When using a spade, turn out one spade full of soil, then shave a one-inch slice of earth from the side of the hole. Do this in at least six different places in the area being tested and mix all the slices together in a bucket to create the average soil sample for the area.

If there are several areas to be sampled, keep a record of each area being sampled (i.e., “vegetable garden,” “wheat field,” “brome trap,” etc.). Label each sample with name, address, phone number, email and the crop that is intended to grow.

Soil samples should be delivered to the Cowley County Extension Office, located in the east wing of the Cowley County Courthouse in Winfield. Staff will collect additional information to ensure that the appropriate test is performed to give information to help in the growing season.

For more information about soil testing for crops or your home garden, or additional gardening resources, contact the Cowley County Extension Office at (620) 221-5450 or (620) 441-4565.

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