Farmers need accuracy, consistency in soil tests

Frances Gould, Morgan, Johnny W.  |  10/14/2016 5:37:48 PM

Finding the true nutrient deficiencies in soil can only be found with a test, but are all soil tests created equal? That is the question LSU AgCenter scientists hope to answer.

Without a benchmark, it is impossible to say that one soil test is any more accurate than another. But work being done by AgCenter horticulturist Ed Bush will determine how to standardize the process.

“What we’re doing is looking at the consistency of soil testing labs across the country,” Bush said. “We want to determine consistency of results from 10 farms processed at different labs.”

A soil test can determine the fertility of the soil or the expected growth potential, which could indicate nutrient deficiencies and potential toxicities from excessive fertility.

It’s not so much about the results, it’s more about the recommendations of the labs, Bush said.

Producers only want to apply nutrients as needed, and this study will help them use only the amount of nutrients necessary to produce their crop.

“The important thing about this is that we can make use of GPS to add nutrients only where they are needed, making fertilizer applications more efficient,” Bush said.

A good soil sample must be representative of the entire area that a grower is planning to use.

“I don’t think people realize how much science is involved in soil testing and recommendations to apply fertilizers,” Bush said. Johnny Morgan

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