If your plants are not doing well despite all the efforts that you have given them, it might be the time to take a closer look. Many are the times when farmers fail to realize or forget that plants are living organisms, and their health depends on the nutrition they get from the soil. Using a soil testing kit is essential to improve your production.
To grow healthy plants and enjoy high-productivity, the first step is testing the soil and using the report to enrich it depending on the plants under consideration.
To test your soil, there are two main methods that you can use; a soil testing kit or send your samples to a soil testing lab.
In this post, we will take a closer look at the kits to determine how you can use them correctly for soil analysis. We will also tell you why using a soil testing laboratory have more benefits compared to do-it-yourself testing kits.
What is a Soil Testing Kit?
When farming a specific plant, such as hemp, it is important to appreciate that it requires specific nutrients. A soil test kit is used to assess the quantity of these nutrients and help you establish the best nutrient additives that might be needed.
Although soil test kits vary in their appearance, they follow the same method of using chemical reaction capsules, test tubes, small soil sample and distilled water. Using a soil test kit, you can test the following nutrients and parameters:
Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients for any plant because it forms part of the chlorophyll. In addition to helping plants with the process of photosynthesis, nitrogen is also an important part of the amino acids, which are the building blocks of a plant.
This is another essential nutrient for your plants and it plays a great role in their development. It is also crucial in the process of photosynthesis, cell growth, and energy storage. If your soil is deficient in phosphorous, there is a risk that the plants will take longer to mature, or productivity will be very low.
Potassium is used to help with the movement of water, nutrients, and carbohydrates through the plant cells. It is also an important component in facilitating the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen during the process of photosynthesis.
Many plants thrive well when the soil pH is around 6.5-7.5 because it is the range where most nutrients are available. However, it is important to note that there are some plants prefer more acidic or basic soils, and provide them with the right environment to thrive (as mentioned by the FDA).
Why Soil Testing is So Important in Farming?
Before we can look at how you can use soil test kit, it is important to answer the question, “Why is it so important for farmers?”
You Get to Know the Health of Your Soil
If you want to get high-quality products, you need to understand their nutritional requirements and provide them in the right quantities. Soil testing, whether through the use of soil test kits or soil testing labs, will help you to understand which nutrients are deficient in your soil so that you can add them for your plants to thrive.
Cutting the Cost of Production
Many farmers are tempted to simply buy any fertilizer out there and adding it into their farms, expecting to increase productivity, but they end up getting poor harvests. In some cases, the fertilizer used might raise or lower the acidity of the soil, contrasting what the plants you are growing need.
The overall effect is that you will have incurred double losses; money used to buy fertilizers, and reduced production.
When you test your soil either using a soil testing kit or through the help of a soil testing laboratory, you put the guesswork aside and meet the specific needs of the plant. The effect is that the fertilizers that you will buy and apply will be fully optimized, helping you to keep the cost of production low.
A Great Way to Reduce Pollution into the Environment
If you ask most farmers, they will tell you that using more fertilizers will increase productivity, but this is an incorrect assumption. Often, it results in the problem of over-fertilization and pollution of the environment. The excess fertilizer often ends up into aquatic systems and could poison the animals therein.
The Main Types of Soil Test Kits
Soil testing kits fall into several categories, and they come with multiple tests that allow you to determine the quantities of targeted components. Note that the kits require you to prepare your sample about 24 to 30 hours before starting the tests.
These kits are the simplest to use when testing your soil because they require you to simply get a sample and send it to a testing laboratory. The kits come with instructions on how to collect the samples, secure them, and send to the testing laboratory. Once the samples are tested in the laboratories, you are sent the report so that you can act on it to enhance the production of your Farm.
Professional Chemical Kits
In order to use these soil testing kits, you require some basic understanding of chemical reactions. The kits are sold with reagents and a manual to follow in order to determine the quantities of various components in a soil sample. They are similar to what surveyors and scientists use in archaeological and urban spill sites.
These test kits are really fast and easy to use because you simply stick them onto the ground and check the reading. Mostly, the digital meters are used to make a prompt assessment of the water and pH levels of a certain field and to assess if plants are getting the available nutrients.
How to Use a Soil Test Kit?
If you want to test soil on your own, you need to start by acquiring a professional soil testing kit and then use the following steps. In this demonstration, we will show you how to measure NPK levels using distilled water and soil. To use the kit, you need a soil sample, distilled water, jar and a notebook. Then, follow these steps:
Step 1: Get Your Soil Sample
Start by gathering your samples from the preferred sections of your Farm. We recommend that you divide the fields into equal segments and pick a sample from each. Note that when picking soil for testing, it should be drawn from two to four inches below the ground.
Step 2: Create a Soil and Water Mixture
For you to get the right reading, it is important to start by creating a soil-water mixture at a ratio of one part soil to five parts water. Note that you should only use the distilled water to prepare the mixture. Then, shake vigorously and allow the mixture to settle undisturbed for about 24 hours.
Step 3: Check the pH Levels
To check the pH of the soil, you need to fill the green-capped tube with soil, and then pour the powder from the green capsules. Then, add distilled water and shake. When you allow the mixture to settle, it will change color, and you should compare with the provided pH chart provided with the kit to determine the acidity of your soil.
Step 4: Check Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorous Levels
Most soil testing kits come with a color chart that allows you to test and determine the intensity of nutrients by matching colors. So, here is how to how to go about it:
- Using a dropper, suck water from your soil-water mixture and fill your tube.
- Onto the tube, pour the powder in the capsule, and shake well.
- Allow the mixture to stand for about ten minutes and note the color development.
- Then, compare the color with the chart included. The chart is very easy to follow because it categorizes the levels of potassium, nitrogen, or phosphorous into three; high, medium, and low.
Step 5: Record the Results and Use the Data for Soil Management
Record the pH details as well as the levels of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous on your journal. With the information, you can determine the nature of the fertilizer to use depending on the plants that you want to grow. However, you need to determine the growth characteristics of your selected plant first.
Using Soil Testing Laboratory
Although you can easily use a soil testing kit to test the fertility of soil, the extent of analysis that you can do is pretty narrow. Besides, many non-technical persons indicate that the process is complicated and difficult to follow.
Therefore, the better option is using a soil testing laboratory.
Soil testing labs are equipped with the latest technologies that make them easy to test more parameters using your soil sample. Unlike the soil testing kits that can only classify the components to something such as high, medium and low, the laboratories are more detailed. Furthermore, since they are run by experienced scientists, they can tell you with certainty the type of fertilizer and quantities to use.
How Do Soil Testing Labs Work?
To test your soil sample, soil testing labs use advanced technologies, such as High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and gas chromatography to determine the presence of different components. Here are the four main steps of testing a soil sample in a soil testing lab:
- You pick the sample from your field. Make sure the sample is selected from different sections of the field so that it is representative of the entire Farm.
- Package the sample well and send to the soil testing lab. Make sure that the bags used to package the samples are sealed to prevent loss of moisture or contamination during shipping.
- Once your laboratory receives the soil samples, the scientists will test different parameters, such as fertility, pH, and heavy metals. Then, a report is compiled and mailed to you as immediately as possible so that you can use it to make the decisions about soil fertility management in your farm.
A Closer Look at Sante Laboratories
One of the most outstanding soil testing labs in the US today is Sante Laboratories. Sante is a contract development manufacturing organization in Austin, Texas, that was developed to serve the hemp niche from the seed to the shelf. To achieve this mandate, the laboratory works with some of the best scientists in soil science to help farmers optimize their production. So, if you want to increase your hemp production, Sante Laboratory is one of the best labs to consider.
The good about this soil testing lab is that they do not simply stop at testing. In addition, they use their expertise to come-up with high-potential programs to address challenges that most hemp and other farmers have been facing in the industry.
One such program is the partnership between Sante and Lone Star Overnight (LSO) to provide free shipping of samples from all over Texas.
Sante appreciated that although most farmers wanted to have their soil and hemp tested, they faced a myriad of challenges, such as uncertain shipping time. With the partnership between Sante and LSO, farmers only need to get their samples, and LSO will deliver them to Sante in less than 15 days.
Because shipping is free, farmers can now test the quality of their soil and determine the right soil management strategy for better production. This will guarantee them of high-quality and more production.
If you are a farmer, the bottom line to success is ensuring that plants have all the nutrients they need for healthy growth. Although you can use a soil testing kit to assess the fertility of your soil, the level of accuracy that you can get with such kits is limited.
The best alternative is soil testing labs, such as Sante Laboratories, because they have the expertise, technology, and can also advise you on the best strategies for better production.