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Importance of Soil Testing, Benefits of Soil Testing and the Cost of Non Testing.

Importance of Soil Testing:

The first step in any safe crop production programme is to determine the exact nutrient and pH levels in your farm soil. Crops are usually grown on a wide range of soil types with varying fertiliser needs, depending on the soil health and quality. Many nutrients can cause an imbalance in the soil, affecting the ecosystem and contaminating water and the creatures that live beneath it. When it comes to soil types and nutrient material, each region is special.

Soil sampling and testing will reveal plant usable nutrients as well as other essential soil chemical factors for winter wheat production. Since nutrient levels in soil vary from year to year, soil sampling and checking should be done before planting any new crop. To implement a fertility management method, farmers must take the prescribed measures for soil testing and monitoring.

Soil analysis is an important tool for your farm because it identifies the inputs needed for productive and cost-effective production. A proper soil test can ensure that adequate fertiliser is applied to fulfil the crop's needs while still taking advantage of the nutrients already available in the soil. It may also be used to diagnose trouble areas and assess the amount of lime needed. Since the findings are just as good as the sample you take, the sampling procedure must be right. For farms that must complete a nutrient management plan, soil testing is also needed.

What is the pH of the soil?

The pH of the soil is a scale from 0 to 14 that indicates its acidity or alkalinity. Zero denotes extreme acidity, while fourteen denotes extreme alkalinity, and seven denotes neutrality. In a farm, the pH of ideal soil should be between 6.0 and 7.5. As the pH in the soil becomes unbalanced, it has a direct impact on the supply of nutrients. Limestone-based products are used on sour or acidic soils, whereas sulphur-based products are used on alkaline soils. It may take a few years to adjust the pH of a farm's soil, but it is critical to do so gradually for proper nutrient uptake and plant health.

How to Get Your Soil Tested?

Independent labs, community extension centres, and garden centres are also good places to get your farm's soil checked.

To get a sample of soil, follow these steps.

  • Use a shovel, trowel, soil probe or some other appropriate tool, to a depth of 5 to 7 inches and take a sample.
  • Clear the area of any grass, gravel, thatch, or debris.
  • Gather approximately 1 pint of soil by taking 6 to 7 samples, carefully mixing them in a plastic bucket.
  • Leave to dry for 24 hours on a dry piece of paper, such as a newspaper. The majority of laboratories prefer dry soil. However, there might be any moisture left.

The findings will notify the soil technicians of the recommendations that will remedy the situation, including any pH changes or fertiliser shortages, allowing for systematic approaches to fertilising the field.

Benefits of Soil Testing:

Soil testing has been generally recognised in agribusiness, both by farmers and by industry, over the last five decades. The obvious motivator for the keen interest in soil testing has been the potential for improved yields and revenues. In general, soil test reports will provide you with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and limestone fertiliser application recommendations. Soil testing will also help you figure out what micronutrients your crop needs Thus, soil testing is a farm management method that can help farmers achieve higher yields, lower operating costs, and better environmental risk management. Improved crop maturity and quality, increased resistance to disease and pest damage, and increased growth are all additional benefits. It provides the farmer with information on the current state of the farm's soil and how to improve it.

The biological, chemical, and physical properties of the soil determine its fertility. Structure, soil texture, and colour are all apparent to the naked eye. The chemical composition of the soil, on the other hand, is difficult to see. As a result, soil diagnosis is needed, which is why soil sampling is so important. Soil tests are used to assess the nutrient and pH content of the soil. Farmers will use this information to determine the amount and type of fertiliser that will be required to improve the soil on their farm. This is critical because healthy crops need fertile soils to grow.

1. A soil test will help you save money on fertiliser
Knowing the exact deficiency that your soil is suffering from would ensure that no farm supplies are wasted. Farmers can avoid wasting money on needless extra fertiliser applications by knowing the quantity and form of fertilisers their crops and soil need. Besides, nutrients found in inorganic fertilisers, such as potassium and phosphorus, are rare resources. Their availability is minimal or finite, meaning that caution should be exercised in their use to avoid potential shortages of such scarce resources.

2. Over-fertilization is found to be restricted according to soil research
Applying fertiliser to your soil without first determining the exact nutrient it requires can result in over-fertilization. Farmers who test their soil and receive knowledgeable fertiliser recommendations are less likely to add unnecessary amounts of fertiliser, reducing environmental harm. Overfertilization can cause water contamination, nutrient leaching, and irreversible damage to aquatic life. Many of these harmful environmental consequences can be avoided with only a simple soil examination. Furthermore, excessive fertiliser usage can be harmful not only to the environment but also to crops, resulting in fertiliser burn.

3. Soil depletion can be easily avoided by farmers
According to the study, erosion caused by unbalanced soil management results in the loss of more than 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil per year. The land loss also has a direct impact on the livelihoods and wellbeing of an estimated 1.5 billion people. Soil restoration is an expensive, time-consuming, and difficult operation. As a result, improved soil conservation by soil testing is a less difficult path to take, and fertiliser application in the proper quantities is both productive and cost-effective.

4. Farmers with fertile soils can help feed the world's rapidly growing population
The new generation places greater demands on the soil than any previous generation. Fertile soils are needed to produce yields that will feed the world's ever-increasing population. More crops result from improved soil quality, eventually resolving the world's food security issues. Millions of people would profit from this in the long run. The first phase in soil conservation is soil testing. Farmers will gain useful knowledge from the action that will aid them in improving the soil's health; healthy soils mean healthy crops. The value of soil testing has been recognised since the beginning of time. In farming, different types of soils and variations in soil properties are essential considerations. What crops can be grown and how much yield the farm can produce are determined by soil texture, soil moisture, and soil chemistry.

5. Environmental Advantages
As previously said, if you don't soil sample, you're farming in the dark and could be adding elements to the soil that you don't need. This is both a waste of resources and harmful to the environment. Soil sampling is mainly used to ensure that chemical and animal manures are used efficiently on the field. If you apply chemical fertiliser or animal manure to soils with a P Index of 4, you will be adding excess P, which will be leached out of the soil and into nearby waterways, causing contamination and algae formation. Excessive Phosphorus and Nitrate levels in the soil are more likely to leach these components into waterways. Farmers can prevent adding Phosphorus and Nitrogen to areas of the farm that are naturally high in those elements by sampling the soil.

The Cost of Non-Testing the Soil:

Soil is a thin film that coats most of the earth's ground surface, ranging in depth from a few centimeters to several meters. It is composed of a mixture of small rock and mineral fragments, as well as water, air, and the remnants of both plant and animal life. When water flows in and out of the soil, plants and animals survive and die, it is continuously changing. Wind, water, ice, and gravity all move soil particles about, at times steadily and at other times rapidly.

There are several issues that will arise if the soil is not tested:

1. Nutrient deficiencies in crops
Plants with symptoms of nutrient deficiency disease are a common source of concern for crop farmers. The visual symptoms of nutrient deficiency diseases in plants are summarised below. While this is a good place to start when diagnosing performance problems, keep in mind that several different diet disorders will coexist. To get a better understanding of the soil, conduct a soil test to assess which nutrients are deficient.

2. Poor plant growth
Plant or seedling growth that is stunted is a sign of a bigger problem and an indication that the plant is sick. Seedling growth can be slowed as a result of incorrect soil tests. To detect nutrient deficiency, have the soil tested. When the soil pH is too high or too low, this is a typical issue for plants. For better plant growth and production, we must follow the step-by-step method of soil testing.

3. Pests and Disease
Healthy plants in good growing condition are less susceptible to disease, but pathogens can spread throughout your garden, so check the soil fertility before planting. To deter the transmission of disease, make sure the unwanted soil is removed and destroyed. If you don't follow the soil testing procedure, a variety of insects and pests will harm plants and even prevent them from growing.

4. Irregular plant growth in your fields

Lack of soil testing, which can cause aster yellows in plants, is likely to be the cause of the plant's distorted, irregular growth. Aster yellow is a disease caused by a phytoplasma, which are bacteria-like organisms that cause a wide spectrum of strange and peculiar symptoms. Regardless of the variety's usual colour, the flower heads may be deformed or lopsided, and the flowers may remain yellowish-green.

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