SoilOptix® Blog

Soil Prep Series #2: Why Should You Choose a Soil Nutrient Tester in USA before Cropping? 

If you are preparing for the next cropping season, you’ve come to the right place.

Most farmers would agree that quality cropping plots are a result of hard labour, time and money. Their success is a function of good site selection, quality seed, weather and the soil. A soil test provides the information necessary to maximize the field’s full potential and save  money by reducing unnecessary input costs. Investigating the nutrient level of your particular plot can give you an idea of what your land is lacking and the steps you need to take to correct it. With a soil nutrient tester in USA, it becomes very easy to determine your soil’s needs.

Measuring Soil Nutrients and Their Quality:

Soil testing can help to guide you to which amendments can help correct the soil texture and composition problems, nutrient deficiencies, and more:

  1. pH levels
  2. Mineral and nutrient analysis
  3. Soil type
  4. Which amendments/fertilizers/supplements your soil needs
  5. Recommended application rates for your field

soil nutrient tester USA

Source: Freepik

What are the Signs of an Unhealthy Soil Layer?

  • Excessively dry:

    Is your soil layer extremely dry and hard to break apart? Soil is supposed to sustain life even when there are no plants or even other vegetation currently growing there. A vast micro-ecosystem of organisms, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi should be living, reproducing, and effectively contributing to your soil’s health persistently. Without moisture, that web of life cannot survive.

  • Heavily compacted:

    Is your soil so compacted that it is extremely hard to dig? Plant roots and soil based organisms need adequate aeration to thrive.

  • Dying or poorly growing plants:

    Are repeated attempts at improving growth failing? Then it’s time to look at the nutrient levels (macro and micro nutrients), pH balance, and other factors in your soil.

Soil Testing and Nutrient Management:

Soil testing is one of the most cost effective and vital tools that any agriculture practitioners have at their disposal. The results of an in-depth soil test will also tell you what the pH levels of your soil are. If your soil layer is too acidic (the pH is low), the test results will infer how much lime you need to add to raise the soil pH to the ideal range for the crops you are planning to grow.

For instance, if your soil is too alkaline (too high) you may have to consider choosing an alternative that will be more tolerant of higher pH soils. Soil test results can also provide the needed recommendations for how much nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous your field needs based on what is already present in the soil and/or plant tissue. Without soil testing, you run the risk of providing too few (or too much!) nutrients which may negatively impact your yields or  over fertilizing which represents both economic and  environmental concerns. There is no way to tell what your plot needs, in terms of fertilizer or lime, without a soil test.

Why is Nutrient Management Essential?

The most opportune time for improving soil health is prior to planting your crops. It is not efficient nor recommended to approach a field randomly and plant a particular crop without first assessing the suitability of the soil for crop production. Careful consideration of the available soil layer and their characteristics should be made in light of that particular crop’s requirements using a soil nutrient tester in USA, or better yet- a soil mapping solution Once a suitable site with appropriate soil is chosen, additional soil management practices may be called for to further enhance soil health prior to planting.

The ideal nutrient management plan for a plot should include these 4 Rs:

  • Right material – that we match the fertilizer type to the needs of the crop and soil
  • Right rate – that the correct rate is known from soil analysis and the needs of the crop
  • Right time – the fertilizers are applied when they are needed by a crop
  • Right place – that they are applied where they are most readily accessible to the crop

It is expected to use a nutrient management plan to be used in conjunction with soil analyses and risk maps of your farm (showing water courses, bore holes, slopes and gradients).

Routine vs. Diagnostic Soil Testing:

Use routine soil analysis to get lime and fertilizer recommendations for establishment or maintenance of a berry planting where no known history of fertilizer problems exists. Diagnostic analysis is suggested when a nutrient imbalance is the suspected cause of poor crop performance and/or foliar symptoms. Collect paired samples from “good” and “bad’ areas of the field to confirm a problem. Consider adding a soluble salts test to the standard soil test package in this case. Use plant tissue analysis in conjunction with a diagnostic soil analysis to further assist in the diagnosis.

Establishing a Sampling Schedule:

Many agriculture educators and scientists frequently receive panicked “after-the-fact” soil and nutrient management questions in cases where growers planted first and asked questions later. To best utilize these crop management tools, it is important to establish a routine analysis schedule for crops, starting before planting.

For the best results, rely on soil experts from SoilOptix®! Call or visit us at to help you create the perfect nutrient management plan for your farm today!