Soil testing involves collecting and analyzing a soil sample to determine the quantity of nutrients and elements such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, copper and zinc. Soil testing also measures the humic matter, exchangeable acidity and pH of the soil.
Measuring the quantity of elements and nutrients determines the type and amount of fertilizer the soil in a particular area needs. Analyzing the acidity of the soil determines how much lime it needs.
For soil testing results to be useful, it is important to collect soil samples that accurately represent an area. For cultivated land, it is advisable to collect soil samples at the depth of cultivation, which is about 6 inches. For uncultivated land, the landowner can take samples at a depth of 2 inches.
Soil analysis involves chemically extracting the soil nutrients and elements in a laboratory. It is advisable to send samples to a lab as opposed to using a store-bought soil testing kit, as labs test a wider variety of nutrients and have quality control measures in place.
Researchers interpret the results of the analysis and recommend the best fertilizer and lime to use to increase plant yield. Soil testing is advantageous because it helps landowners determine the right type and amount of fertilizer and lime for their soil, improves environmental quality and helps landowners save money that they might have spent on unneeded fertilizer and lime.