In today’s economy, consumers are always looking for ways to save money. One of the most practical ways to save money when planting is to have your soil tested. Soil testing is a service provided by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at its Agronomic Division in Raleigh.
For farmers, soil testing is the first step in planning an economically and environmentally sound fertilization program. The efficient use of nutrients can help reduce fertilizer costs and environmental concerns without reducing yield or quality. This requires a well-planned fertilization program based on soil sampling, wise selection of nutrients based on needs and costs, and proper application of fertilizers. For homeowners, soil testing takes the guesswork out of maintaining the soil in optimum condition for plant growth and development.
A soil test will assess the present levels of major plant nutrients, soil pH, and micronutrients. Recommendations will include the amounts of lime and fertilizer, if necessary, to meet the requirements of the specific plant or crop being grown. Collect samples three to six months before planting time. Taking good samples, filling out paperwork properly, and packaging samples for delivery in a well-organized manner are important.
For the first time, through the Appropriations Act of 2013 passed by the North Carolina General Assembly, a new $4 fee will be charged for all soil samples processed by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Agronomic Division during its busiest season: Dec. 1 through March 30. There will still be no fee from April 1 through Nov. 30. The fee for waste analysis will also increase from $5 to $8 after Dec. 1. Fees for other specific tests, including plant tissue analysis, solution analysis, and nematodes, will remain the same. These fees are being implemented to encourage more growers to sample early and for improvements to the agronomic lab such as new equipment, additional peak-season personnel, and computer-programming enhancements. So it is very important to get your samples to Raleigh by Nov. 27 to avoid the new fees.
Soil sample boxes and forms can be picked up at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, 455 Caton Road on N.C. 72 West in Lumberton. Samples can be mailed to the lab in Raleigh or dropped off at the Extension Center, where they will be delivered when Extension employees travel to Raleigh. Extension agents can also assist you in interpreting the soil test results or developing a soil treatment plan. Remember, having your soil tested before planting gives you the opportunity to increase your yields on the farm or improve your landscape around the house.
For information, please contact Nelson Brownlee, Extension Area Farm Management agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276, by email at Nelson_Brownlee@ncsu.edu, or visit our website at http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu/.