Did you know your local University of Missouri Extension offers soil testing?
Basic soil testing analyzes nutrient content and fertility status. Results include fertilizer and lime recommendations. Additional tests are available for nutrient management plans, environmental issues, potting mixes, compost, manure and water usage. Each sample should contain about 1½ cups of dry soil from 6 to 7 inches deep. Results are typically provided within two weeks
Winter is the perfect time to test the soil with most fields and pastures being idle and lime applications are easy to make.
Take soil samples every 3-4 years. Collect several sample bags if the land is uneven or was managed differently in the past. For example, if a pasture was once two pastures or half of your crops field was converted from grass. Sample hillsides, waterways, removed ponds or tree lines separate as well. Avoid areas where livestock congregate (feeders, shade, ponds) and field edges near gravel roads.
Wait at least three months after application of phosphorus fertilizer, lime or manure before taking a soil sample.
Sample cores need to be at least 6-8 inches deep; too shallow of a sample can cause an overestimate of soil fertility levels. Every core should be the same depth and quantity to provide uniformity. A zigzag pattern of random soil sampling across the field works well in most situations. If using a shovel instead of a soil probe, dig a hole and slice off the outside half. Collect 10-20 cores in a bucket, crumble and mix them well. Remove sticks, rocks and grass, then place about one pint of soil into a plastic bag or soil sample box. Always label the bag in reference to where the sample was taken to identify it when the results are received.
If pH needs raised, add lime as soon as possible; lime takes at least six months to break down. Correct pH is important to make other fertilizer and nutrients available for plant uptake. If pH is not at the recommended level, nutrients in or applied to the soil will not be completely available for the plant to use.
Call the Douglas County MU Extension office at 417-683-4409 for more information.