Soil surveys can offer a great deal of site-specific information on soil texture, qualities, and appropriate uses and limitations. However, there may be times you wish to collect your own soils information, such as if you desire information on a finer spatial scale than a soil survey can provide, or if you are seeking information which can fluctuate over time. Additionally, if you were part of a watershed monitoring project, you may wish to periodically collect soils information of various sorts, depending on the project objectives.
There are several soil characteristics that can quickly and easily be measured at home or by sending a soil sample to a local laboratory. This section covers ways to collect soils information on your own.
Why test soil?
First, soil surveys cover large areas, and may not capture the subtle changes in soil texture and nutrients within a small area. Secondly, soil nutrients fluctuate throughout the year and over time. Soil testing indicates whether nutrients, in the form of fertilizers, should be added to enhance plant growth. Adding unnecessary fertilizer can result in surface and groundwater pollution, especially by nitrates. Not adding needed fertilizers can result in small, less productive plants. It is recommended that cultivated soils be tested approximately every three years.