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Why You Should Spend More Time Thinking About Soil Reports

Sponsored by Ferticell®

Agricultural producers in 2022 will face new, unwelcome changes to how they evaluate programs and fertilizers due to supply and price concerns across the board. Many growers are looking at their soil, determining what is needed, where they are, and what can be applied.  Any organic or sustainable farming operation needs a baseline to review regarding prior year soil health, potential limiting factors, and what options are available.

At the start of the season, it is essential to always be looking to the soil, as a first order, to establish current soil and water conditions if irrigation is in place. This is the stage where we learn if there are any favorable, as well as possible soil limiting factors that can be identified early. This will provide the opportunity to determine what product options are available. 

woman testing soil in field
Studying and understanding your soil will help your crops grow to their full potential.


The cost of sending in labs may seem high, but every dollar is multiplied down the row. A qualified assessment of inputs requires getting all figures and reports. In a season of high fertilizer prices, buying an excess of product can significantly reduce profits. When selecting a laboratory for sampling, it is important the methodology is accurate for the growing region. For example, soil analysis methods developed for the southern region may not be applicable in other regions of the country. For those concerned about measurement accuracy, growers should inquire about the results of NAPT (North American Proficiency Testing).


It is imperative that every soil test includes an accurate assessment of active carbon availability. Carbon is the foundation for soil organic matter (SOM) and the main source of energy for soil microorganisms. Each irrigated farm should produce a soil paste report and should use farm water for an accurate analysis. Dryland practices should also include a soil paste report using deionized water, as that is as close to rainfall results as possible in the lab.

Soil physical property measurements should be collected to identify soil classification by measuring the sand, silt, and clay components. Any reports that classify soil as a “sandy loam” with a high sand content should also include a measurement of sand particle sizes. Uniform sand categories will have a balanced distribution that is measured on several screen sizes. A uniform sand particle size is established by measurements using a minimum of five screens that include 35mm, 60mm, 80mm, 100mm, and 140mm, as well as silt and clay. This data will establish the balance of air and water holding potential of all the soil types.

Simple practices such as soil priming will initiate a balancing of active carbon. This will assist in converting or releasing elements that are in a complex condition such as sodium bicarbonate. Priming soils will facilitate biomass activities that are critical for nutrient release and assimilation in the correct form at the correct timing.

Soils that may be compacted in the early part of planting or start-up will benefit from timely applications of calcium and L-amino acids that have a direct impact on soil flocculation (tilth) and biological activity. Soil or applied cations such as calcium and potassium will improve efficiencies and assimilation when plant-based amino acids are applied in combination. Two of the most significant soil elements that can be directly impacted by heavy or tight soils are carbon and oxygen. Nutrient cycling must have a reliable source of carbon and beneficial biology must have oxygen.

Inspecting soils once every year will give you an educated idea of where soil health and conditions are headed. Soil performance can be estimated with as little as three years of data collection, and it is recommended to always use the same laboratory and near the same time.

Optimal soil balance depends on a combination of physical, biological, and chemical conditions that allow your crop to reach its full genetic potential.


Marginal quality water can hinder uptake and overall availability of soil nutrients, working against your yield instead of for it. An irrigation suitability test will determine any corrective products or practices that may be put in place. A critical water analysis will report several salts such as sodium, chloride, carbonate, bicarbonate, boron, nitrates, sulfur, and pH. Water classified as marginal will require a balance of cations and anions.

Once the season starts and crop production is in place, tissue or sap samples can verify successful corrective practices or products that have been placed at the correct timing. 

As we move forward into the 21st century, mainstream agriculture has the burden or opportunity of protecting the soil with rich agricultural production products and practices that are proving to be efficient, and profitable. Carbon-rich fertile soil has been challenged by the use of salt-based fertilizers, and we can measure the decline in biology with anaerobic soils and the loss of physical properties with hardpan at or near the surface. Small, calculated changes or combinations of product choices will always add to or build topsoil biodiversity.

Sponsored Message:

Created with Priming in mind, Pro Primer™ 2-0-0+F is a perfect example of a plant-based fulvic acid with soy protein and freshwater algae, combined with carbohydrates and active carbon amino acids, in a soon to be approved for organic use liquid solution, ideal for soil priming and recommended and low, economical rates. Ferticell® is a sustainable and organic agriculture fertilizer company dedicated to soil health.