An MU Extension agronomist examines dried soil samples that were placed into numbered boxes.

The University of Missouri Texas County Extension Council voted at its last meeting to give landowners doing multiple soil tests a break on pricing.

The regular rate of $17 per test (for field or garden samples) will still be in effect for the first eight tests, but for nine or more tests the price will drop to $15 each.

“Our council just felt that when that many tests are being done, giving a price break makes it more economical for our landowners, as well as encouraging them to do the correct number of tests for the size of their fields,” said Texas County Extension program director Angie Fletcher.

A person can’t tell whether a field, lawn or garden has too much phosphorus or too little organic matter simply by smelling and touching the soil.

But if a sample of the soil is taken to a local MU Extension Center, it can be tested to determine exactly what is needed to maximize the potential of the soil. A soil test provides information on the nutrient levels (potassium, calcium or lime, and magnesium), percent of organic matter and lime requirements

“With this type of information, a fertilizer and lime program can be determined based on the needs of the plants to be grown and the condition of the soil,” said Extension agronomy specialist Tim Schnakenberg.

When taking a soil sample from the lawn, garden or field, Schnakenberg recommends using a clean spade and clean pail.

“Push the spade deep into soil and throw out a spade full of soil,” he said. “Then cut a one-inch slice of soil from the back of the hole with the spade. Be sure the slice goes seven inches deep and is even in width and thickness.

Place this slice in the pail, and repeat these steps five or six times at different spots over your lawn, garden or field.”

Thoroughly mix the six or seven slices you have in the pail, Schnakenberg said. After mixing, take about one pint of soil to your nearest extension center.

The soil test report provides information on soil test results and ratings, suggested fertilizer and limestone treatments for the lawn or field, and fertility management practices or concerns.

Each soil test done with the MU Extension office also comes with recommendations made by a trained and experienced specialist who can also answer any questions free.

“Without the information a soil test provides all you can do is guess. A guess will normally result in crop loss or poor blooming,” Schnakenberg said. “To make it easy for you to interpret the soil test results, your report form will indicate which fertilizers, and how much, you should apply.”

For more information on soil testing, call the MU Extension Center in Houston at 417-967-4545 and request UMC Guide 9110, “How to Get a Good Soil Sample” and Guide 9111, “Using Your Soil Test Results.” The office is in the Lone Star Plaza Annex on Main Street. Information is also available online at extension.missouri.edu. 

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