Soil Sampling

Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.

News Article for July 24, 2017

The dog days of summer are a perfect time to start planning for fall crops. Livestock producers, hunters, vegetable and strawberry growers should go ahead and get their soil samples in to determine fertilizer and liming needs prior to planting.

It is also a good time to evaluate how well your crops have grown during the past growing season. If the results were less than desirable, I would check the nutrient base in the soil to make sure there are no deficiencies that are limiting production. Take samples for pastures, wildlife food plots, vegetables, flowers and lawns.

The better nutrition you are able to provide plants, the better they are able to produce and to survive unfavorable weather conditions. Every year I encounter livestock producers who have a bad ryegrass year and have to end up feeding and buying extra hay or supplements to make it through the winter. I also have deer hunters who have to sit over sparse food plots during the hunting season because their forage crops did not grow. By the time you realize you have a problem it is late in the growing season and hard to correct. In the case of food plots it is usually too late to get it turned around during this year’s hunting season.

Nutrients in the soil such as phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, zinc and copper are like money in your checking account. If you know how much money you have then you know how much money you can spend without going bankrupt. Many soils are bankrupt or very low in one or more essential nutrients and there is no way to look at the soil and tell. The only way to know if you have enough nutrients available to grow the plants that you want is to take a soil test.

Soil samples should be representative of the total area you plan to grow. In order to get good information you should take random subsamples from all over the growing area. Go down 2 to 4 inches deep and take a small amount of soil with the tip of a shovel and put it in a clean bucket. Continue walking all over the growing area taking subsamples. I like to take 20-30 subsamples and put them all in the same bucket. Then use your hand to mix all of the subsamples together. Take about 1 pint of soil out of the mixture and put it in a zip lock bag or other clean container and label it with the name of the field.

I would submit one sample for each different field that you plan to plant. If you have 2 pastures that are all treated alike and only separated by a fence then you could take one sample for both fields.

The cost is $10 per sample or $8 if you have 11 or more. We get quick results from the LSU Soil Testing Lab, usually within 7 working days plus shipping time.

You will receive a report that will tell you the soil pH and they will react your soil with lime or sulfur to give you an individual report of how to correct your soil pH if needed. You will also get a report on your soil levels of phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, copper and zinc. In addition you will get a recommendation on what fertilizers to use for the crop you intend to grow based on your soil sample results.

If you get your samples in early, it gives you plenty of time to develop your plan, locate the needed fertilizers and be ready to plant when the time and weather are right.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at

5/9/2018 4:34:03 PM
Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture