Soil test fee increases Jan. 1; get tests or gift certificates now
Soil tests can save farmers thousands of dollars, according to Missouri University Extension, and buying the tests before Jan. 1 can save farmers even more money because, beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the fee charged by the Extension service will increase from $14.50 to $19.50 for basic soil testing.
For those who like saving money but don’t have time to do the soil tests immediately, the Ozark County Extension office is offering soil test gift certificates at the $14.50 rate through Dec. 31. The gift certificates can be used within 90 days of the date they are purchased. However, the Extension office (on Third Street just east of the Gainesville square) will be closed Dec. 25-Jan. 1, so residents wanting to take advantage of this offer should stop by the office this week or mail a check to P.O. Box 187, Gainesville, MO 65655 to order a certificate.
Manjula Nathan, director of the University of Missouri Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory, says a basic soil test provides information on pH level (acidity or alkalinity), phosphorus level, potassium level, calcium level, magnesium level, organic matter percent and recommendations for corrective treatment. The tests save farmers money because, without testing, too often, farmers follow routine fertilization schedules and end up applying too much fertilizer to fields, Nathan said. The simple soil test gives the farmer accurate information to guide nutrient management decisions.
Two Lawrence County farmers shared their savings stories with MU Extension agronomist Tim Schnakenberg.
One farmer had fertilized his cattle pastures every year with the same fertilizer. “He budgeted a lot of money to do it,” Schnakenberg says.
One year, he spent $270 on soil sampling. He reported saving $20,000 that he would have spent on fertilizer. Another businessman bought a farm and budgeted $10,000 for nutrients. He spent $85 for soil tests that showed the nutrient levels were fine. “Soil testing is a great investment compared to the cost of lime and fertilizer over several acreages,” Schnakenberg said.
In other cases, however, soil tests show low fertility levels. Area MU Extension agronomists can review test results with farmers and make unbiased, research-based recommendations to build up fertility levels.
Fall is a good time to submit soil samples, Nathan said. The lab processes about 32,000 field crop tests annually. Spring is the busiest time. Sampling in late fall gives producers sufficient time to make plans for fertilizer applications.
Landowners can take samples to their county MU Extension center or mail them directly to the lab on the MU campus. The MU soil and plant testing lab has a one-day turnaround time. Regional agronomy and horticulture specialists and firms with accounts at the lab receive the soil test results by email on the same day they are processed. Users may also access soil test results online with a password. For those receiving results by mail, it takes about seven to 10 days from submission to county extension offices to receipt of results.
“Soil testing is an essential management tool for efficient nutrient management that results in improved production and optimized returns,” Nathan said.
The Soil Testing and Plant Diagnostic Services website at soilplantlab.missouri.edu has downloadable submission forms, instructions for taking and submitting soil samples, information about available tests and a guide to interpreting test results. For more information, contact the Ozark County Extension Office at 679-3516.