Let’s face it, if you’re growing anything in the ground, you need to start with good soil. Nutrient-rich, water-holding, aerated soil. It’s the key to a good flower bed, vegetable patch, or even wildlife food plot. But like most things in life, the soil doesn’t speak to you and say, “I need more nitrogen,” or “I’m low on magnesium.” So, what does one do to resolve a soil problem?
The answer is to analyze your soil by a lab to determine what’s going on with its nutrient makeup. “Soil testing is a great resource for all industries depending on it,” says Catherine Gumtow, Operations Lead of the Dairy One Soil Laboratory, “A test will reveal so many things to owners on what their soil needs and that will impact what they’re trying to grow.”
One of the largest customer groups for the Soil Laboratory is farmers. Agriculture and crop fields go through different crop rotations and nutrient cycling varies along with pH and organic matter in the soil. They can receive regular manure applications and visits from fertilizer trucks. The soil analysis performed on a crop field will give cues to the farmer and their agronomy consultants to what might be the best management practices for the field.
Greenhouses and garden centers are another couple of customer groups that can benefit greatly from soil testing and analysis. Greenhouses grow a wide variety of flowers, trees, and shrubs that all have specialized nutrient needs. A shrub has very different needs from a tree and are both very different needs from a perennial flower. Garden centers who are supplying their customers with seeds, plants, and fertilizers could benefit from sending soil testing kits home with their customers.
Vineyards and hopyards are two other soil laboratory groups of customers. While grape vines can grow in the wild, many wineries know that soil makeup has an impact on grape productivity. Soil testing can help with grape growth factors such as yields, ripening ability, sugar and tannin levels, yeast development, and the balance of aromas and flavors in the berries. For hopyards, the soil needs to be a well-balanced mix of nutrients to produce a high-quality product. Much like vineyards, hop plants need aerated soil along with a proper pH level, nutrients, and drainage.
Hunters also turn to soil testing when it comes to wildlife food plot management. Attracting game animals to an area takes the right vegetation, which requires, you guessed it, soil. If animals don’t regularly visit a plot area, it may have to do with how attractive the vegetation available is to them. Having a good soil testing schedule and plan for these areas will indicate if there is a need to add some additional nutrients. It’s also recommended to cordon off space in a plot area to measure if animals are simply overgrazing the spot. Upon receiving the results of a soil sample, hunters will know they need to apply fertilizers like nitrogen, phosphorous, or potassium to help with plant growth.
Soil testing is a valuable resource for many different industries. From vegetable fields to backyard gardens, plants rely on healthy soil to grow and flourish.