Sunday, July 29, 2012

Soil Sample Results

Monday, July 23rd, we sent in our first soil sample for testing. The sample came from our Horticulture Section and included all three fields. These fields have been in pasture for at least 11 years, and most likely for many more years, so was essentially virgin soil. The test results and recommendations were returned on Thursday, July 26th. The recommendations that were provided by the Laboratory was based on general garden crops.

Soil test ratings include Very Low, Low, Medium, Optimum, and Very High.


The soil pH measures active soil acidity or alkalinity. A pH of 7.0 is neutral, lower values are acid and higher values are alkaline. The most desirable range for mineral soils is 6.0 to 7.0 and for organic soils 5.0 to 5.5. The soil pH is the value that should be maintained in the pH range most desirable for the crop to be grown.

Our Soil pH - 6.2

Buffer pH

This is an index value used for determining the amount of lime to apply on acid soils to bring the pH to the desired pH for the crop to be grown. The lower the buffer pH reading the higher the lime requirement.

Our Buffer pH - 6.71

The recommendation is to apply 20 pounds of Lime per 1,000 square feet.

Phosphorus (P)

This tests measures the phosphorus that should be available to the plant. The optimum level will vary with the crop, yield, and soil conditions, but for most field crops a medium to optimum rating is adequate. For soils with pH above 7.3 the sodium bicarbonate test will determine the available P.

Our P level - 6 ppm - Low (on the very low side of low)

The recommendation is to apply 4 pounds of P2O5 per 1,000 square feet.

Potassium (K)

This test measures available potassium. The optimum level will vary with the crop, yield, soil type, soil physical condition, and other soil related factors. Generally, higher levels of potassium are needed on soils high in clay and organic matter versus soils that are sandy and low in organic matter. Optimum levels for light-colored, coarse textured soils may range from 90 to 125 pm. On dark colored heavy textured soils levels ranging from 125 to 200 ppm may be required.

Our K level - 30 ppm - Very Low
Calculated Cation Saturation: 2.0 (Recommended level - 1 to 5 percent)

The recommendation is to apply 4 pounds of K2O per 1,000 square feet.

Calcium (Ca)

Calcium levels are primarily affected by soil type, drainage, liming, and cropping practices. Calcium is closely related to soil pH. Calcium deficiencies are rare when soil pH is adequate. The level for calcium will vary with soil type, but optimum ranges are normally in the 65% to 75% cation saturation range.

Our Ca level - 479 ppm - Medium (on the low side of medium);
Calculated Cation Exchange Saturation: 52.6 (recommended level - 40 to 80 percent)

Magnesium (Mg)

The same factors that affect calcium levels also influence magnesium levels, except magnesium deficiencies are more common. Adequate magnesium levels range from 30 to 70 ppm. The cation saturation for magnesium should be 10  to 15%.

Our Mg level - 145 ppm - Very High
Calculated Cation Saturation: 30.9 (recommended level - 10 - 30 percent)

Sulfur (S)

This test measures sulfate-sulfur. This is a readily available form preferred by most plants. Levels should be maintained in the optimum range. It is important that other soil factors, including organic matter content, soil texture, and drainage be taken into consideration when interpreting sulfur soil tests and predicting crop response

Our S level - 8 ppm - Low

The recommendation is to apply 0.20 pounds of S per 1,000 square feet.

Boron (B)

The readily soluble boron is extracted from the soil. Boron will most likely be deficient in sandy soils, low in organic matter with adequate rainfall. Soil pH, organic matter level and texture should be considered in interpreting the boron test, as well as the crop to be grown.

Our B level - 0.2 ppm - Low (very low side of low)

The recommendation is to apply 0.02 pounds of B per 1,000 square feet.

Copper (Cu)

Copper is most likely to be deficient in low organic matter sandy soils, or organic soils. The crop to be grown, soil texture, and organic matter should be considered when interpreting copper tests. A rating of medium to optimum should be maintained.

Our Cu level - 1.6 ppm - Low (very low side of low)

Iron (Fe)

Soil pH is a very important factor in interpreting iron tests. In addition, crops vary a great deal in sensitivity to iron deficiency. Normally, a medium level would be adequate for most soils. If iron is needed it is bet applied foliar.

Our Fe level - 111 ppm - Optimum (medium side of optimum)

Manganese (Mn)

Soil pH is especially important in interpreting manganese test levels. In addition, soil organic matter, crop and yield levels must be considered. Manganese works best if applied foliar or banded in the soil.

Our Mn level - 174 ppm - Optimum (medium side of optimum)

Zinc (Zn)

Factors which should be considered in interpreting the zinc test include available phosphorus, pH, and crop and yield levels. For crops that have a good response to zinc, the soil test level should be optimum.

Our Zn level - 1.9 ppm - Medium (low side of medium)

Sodium (Na)

Sodium is not an essential plant nutrient, but is usually considered in light of it's effect on the physical condition of the soil. Soils high in exchangeable sodium may cause adverse physical and chemical condition to develop in the soil. These conditions ma prevent the growth of plants. Reclamation of these soils involves the replacement of the exchangeable sodium by calcium and removal of the sodium by leaching.

Our Na level - 30 ppm - Low (very low side of low)

Organic Matter and ENR (Estimated Nitrogen Release)

Percent organic matter is a measurement of the amount of plant and animal residue in the soil. The color of the soil is usually closely related to its organic matter content, with darker soils being higher in organic matter.

The organic matter serves as a reserve for many essential nutrients, especially nitrogen. During the growing season, a part of this reserve nitrogen is made available to the plant through bacterial activity. The ENR is an estimate of the amount of nitrogen (lbs/ac) that will be released over the season. In addition to organic matter level, this figure may be influenced by seasonal variation in weather conditions as well as soil physical conditions.

Our Organic Matter level - 1.9% ENR 82

Nitrate Nitrogen (N03-N)

Nitrate nitrogen is a measure of the nitrogen available to the plant int he nitrate form. In high rainfall areas, sandy soil types, and areas with warm winters this measurement may be of limited value except at planting or side dress time. In the areas with lower rainfall the nitrate test may be very beneficial.

The recommendation is to apply 3 pounds of N (Nitrogen) per 1,000 square feet.

Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC)

Cation exchange capacity measures the soil's ability to hold nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, as well as other positively charged ions such as sodium and hydrogen. The CEC of a soil is dependent upon the amounts and types of clay minerals and organic matter present. The common expression for CEC is in terms of millequivalents per 100 grams (meq/100g) of soil. The CEC of soil can range friom less than 5 to 35 meq/100g for agricultural type soils. Soils with high CEC will generally have higher levels of clay and organic matter. Although high CEC soils can hold more nutrients it does not necessarily mean that they are more productive. Much depends on good soil management.

Our CEC level - 3.6 meq/100g

Potassium : Magnesium Ratio

On some crops, high magnesium levels may reduce potassium uptake by the plant. The ratio of Potassium to Magnesium should be between 0.2 to 0.3 for bets uptake. Ratios below 0.2 could cause reduced potassium uptake.

Our K : Mg level - 0.06; Our Ca : Mg Ratio - 1.70

General Recommendations

Limestone application is targeted to bring soil pH to 6.5.
Adjust N rate up or down according to climatic conditions and management practices.
Incorporate recommended lime, phosphate, potash, and half of nitrogen prior to planting. Side dress with the remaining N about 6 weeks later.

Our plan:

To maintain our "all natural" approach, Baker Heritage Farms will be using cover crops to bring soil condition and health into acceptable ranges as much as possible. Our next step is to determine what cover crops will be most efficient in accomplishing this goal. We will be working with the Kerr Center on determining the best cover crops as their farm is very close to ours and most likely had similar conditions originally.

We will be providing continuous updates.

Baker Heritage Farms

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