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Many people wonder, what are the objectives of soil testing? Knowing your soil type and its properties is a key step to having healthy plants.
Testing your soil gives you an insight into the characteristics of your soil and informs the decisions you take in improving it if need be.
Some of the properties can be assessed physically, for example, structure, color, texture, etc.
However, the same is not practical in evaluating the chemical composition of your soil, and thus you have to conduct a soil test.
Not to worry, we will take you through what you stand to gain from soil testing and how to do it simply and quickly.
Before we talk about what are the objectives of soil testing, let us first explore the relationship between soil properties and healthy crops. Crop performance is dependent on many factors like variety selected, moisture content, presence of disease, etc.
However, the fundamental determinant for great yields is the quality of the soil. This is determined by properties like structure, drainage, pH, water retention, and most of all fertility which is dependent on nutrients and mineral levels in the soil.
Therefore it is crucial that you establish the presence and levels of the above, and how to alter them to suit your needs by testing your soil.
Table of Contents
What are the Objectives of Soil Testing?
It is not in doubt that soil testing is a must if you want to have the lush crops you always see in gardening commercials. Over the past five decades, soil testing has become widely accepted in the agriculture industry where the potential for increased yields is the obvious motivator.
Therefore, we will attempt to explain to you in detail the objectives and benefits you will derive from conducting it. Some of the objectives of soil testing are:
- To evaluate the pH levels of your soil.
- To determine the soil’s nutrient composition.
- To assess soil fertility and plan a nutrient management plan.
- To lower operating costs and preserve the environment.
Soil pH is the measure of acidity or alkalinity; if you like the sourness or sweetness of your soil and ranges from 0.00 (very acidic) to 14.0 (very alkaline). However, the ideal range for plants varies between 6.0 and 7.0.
In this range, microbes that release nitrogen in the soil and many fertilizers operate optimally. Also, crops are able to absorb nutrients optimally under the right pH levels.
Again in very acidic soils, aluminum can become soluble and toxic to crops. Additionally, especially in clay soils, if the soil is very acidic or alkaline, it becomes sticky and hard to work.
pH is not an indication of fertility but is crucial as it determines how readily nutrients can be absorbed by crops. Therefore, you need to know what lowers soil pH and what makes the soil more acidic if you are to attain the optimal pH in your land.
However, before you alter your soil’s pH, you need to test it first to determine the required treatment. Later we will see some home soil test kits with this capability and how it is easy to operate these kits.
Macro and Micronutrient Composition
One of the benefits of soil testing is that it helps you determine the concentration of micronutrients in your soil.
These are elements like nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, Sulphur et cetera, all of which are crucial for the success of your garden.
It is important to understand that you cannot determine the levels of these essential nutrients without testing your soil. Macronutrients are essential for plant formation, and deficiency will spell doom for your crops.
If you have micronutrient deficiency, your plants might grow, but their yields will be dismal, a scenario we all want to avoid. Testing your soil will uncover the problems with your soil if any and will help you plan out a soil care routine to modify your land for maximum benefits.
Soil fertility constitutes more than just the abundance of nutrients alone. A fertile soil exhibits a structure that supports optimal aeration and water circulation. In addition, it supports the presence of soil micro and macro-organisms which aid in the breakdown and release of nutrients in a form that plants can readily absorb.
These qualities are essential since as much as there are nutrients in the soil if the plant cannot utilize them, your plants will be lackluster at best. A frequently asked question is how to make the soil more fertile. Consider adding organic material like compost to your soil and including legumes with your main crop which act as a cover crop and also replenish nitrogen – a macronutrient in the ground that helps in increasing crop performance.
Organic matter also introduces humus which is excellent for water retention, structural integrity, and supporting soil microorganism life. When you test your soil you will understand how fertile your soil is and you will be able to make decisions pertaining addition of manure/ fertilizer to optimize your garden’s output.
Lower Operating Costs and Environmental preservation
After testing, you establish what your soil needs and you are able to plan a soil care routine to modify your soil to the required standards. However, you need to do this without degrading the soil.
Overfertilization can damage your soil structure and fertility, Test results inform you of necessary alterations to avoid over-fertilization which degrades the soil and pollutes the environment, specifically by runoff fertilizer content.
When you precisely understand what your soil needs your cost is reduced and you will not end up damaging your soil with inputs that add no value to your crops.
Best Home Soil Test Kits
The objectives and advantages of soil testing are many. However, soil testing need not be a convoluted affair and you need a pocket-friendly, easy, and accurate way of testing your soil. Therefore, here are some home soil testing kits we recommend for you.
Atree 3-IN-1 Soil Meter
|12.8 x 3.3 x 1.5 inches
|Soil moisture, PH value, and Sunlight intensity
Luster Leaf 1605 Digital Soil Test Kit
|1.54 x 5.83 x 12.2 inches
|Digital Soil Test Kit for pH, N, P, and K
Gain Express Soil Ph & Moisture Meter
|5 x 4 x 5 inches
|PH and Moisture
Sonkir Soil pH Meter, MS02 3-in-1
|11.5 x 2 x 1.5 inches
|Moisture, Light, and PH
SubClap Soil Test Kit 3-in-1
|11 x 1.9 x 1.4 inches
|Moisture, Sunlight, and pH
1. Atree Soil pH Meter, 3-in-1
This home soil test is manufactured by Atree, a company that never disappoints when it comes to quality and accuracy. Those who have used it have praised it for its accuracy, ease of use and have recommended it as being worthy of its price.
Atree Soil pH meter 3-in-1 is light and compact for your convenient handling. With this tester, you will have readings for sunlight intensity on top of pH and moisture readings which is a plus, especially for ornamental plants. Below is a summary of its pros and cons.
2. Luster Leaf 1605 Digital
Luster Leaf is renowned for its price, usability, and accuracy. The Luster Leaf 1605 Digital is no different. It is very compatible and easy to use. Any farmer can easily operate it and its results are reliable.
This kit utilizes LED and optics to read test colors. It is also finely calibrated to read color variations that you could not differentiate by eye. It comes with easy instructions for a wide range of tests and offers alternatives for remedial fertilizers.
It further eases your work by providing you with a booklet giving you plant options for your soil’s pH levels or by how much to adjust the pH for existing crops.
3. Gain Express Soil pH & Moisture Meter
This is another quality product from Gain Express. This soil tester is suitable for most of your uses as it comes with a fairly long probe to test soil deeper. At only 6 ounces, it is fairly compact for easy handling and portability.
Users describe it as easy to use, accurate, and easy to read. At only $ 58.90 it is a worthy investment. Gain Express Soil pH & Moisture Meter is popular with pH testing and offers you the following attributes:
4. Sonkir Soil pH Meter, MS02 3-in-1
If you like multitasking this is the meter for you as it will give you reading for more than one parameter with one insertion; all you need to do is toggle the switch.
From online reviews, users described it as accurate, reliable, offering value for money above being sturdily made for durability. Sonkir Soil pH Meter, MS02 3-in-1 has the following characteristics:
5. SubClap Soil Test Kit 3-in-1
This soil tester is manufactured by SubClap, which gives it a mark of quality. This is another robust tester made for demanding use, and it will not degrade with continued use.
You can use it for outdoor and indoor use with high accuracy due to the double probe technology. Its prominent features are listed below:
Soil testing has benefits ranging from ensuring your crops are healthy, yields are optimal, and also saving you money. Furthermore, with the right testing kit, it is a cheap and easy affair.
Altering your soil haphazardly without testing it could poison your soil, pollute the environment and negate your efforts at gardening. Therefore, since it is such an essential practice, we recommend you test your soil if you wish to have your dream garden.