Evaluating soil health

Josh Vrooman, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County Agriculture Community Educator, is available by phone or email to help answer questions on gardening and agriculture.

MEXICO — Assessing the quality and health of garden or field soil is a key component for any successful farm or garden operation. There are two testing platforms that Cornell Cooperative Extension provides as part of the extension service of Cornell University. All standard soil tests are administered through Dairy One Agronomy Services and are normally sufficient for most farming and gardening applications. While Dairy One administers these tests, they use Cornell’s recommended nutrient guidelines. The second option is to use Cornell’s Soil Health Laboratory, which provides more advanced testing capabilities.

There are several good reasons for choosing a standard test completed by Dairy One. First, the fee is very reasonable, costing $13 to $20 per sample, not including any supplemental add-ons or shipping costs. This option is nice if the intention is to do multiple tests over a given area as the price for more advanced testing can be cost prohibitive. Second, Dairy One provides test results in a timely manner as they try to have it returned to you within 7-15 days from when they receive it. Third, your local cooperative extension agriculture staff can also receive a copy of the test results to help an individual determine what the next steps should be.

The second option is to choose a more advanced soil test developed by Cornell Soil Health Laboratories at Cornell University. The Cornell Soil Health Lab gives two choices for testing, which are their basic and standard packages. The basic package tests for all the classic metrics like pH, organic matter, Modified Morgan P, K and micronutrients; however, it also includes other aspects like aggregate stability and active carbon levels in the soil. They also include surface and subsurface hardness interpretation as long as the penetrometer readings are provided. The standard package includes everything found under the basic plan, but adds additional assessment metrics like soil texture, soil respiration, total nitrogen, predicted ACE protein test and available water capacity. The basic package can run around $60 per sample while the standard package is $110 per sample. This does not include any add-ons or shipping cost.

Deciding what soil test to use will largely be determined on the gardener’s or farmer’s overall goals. Josh Vrooman, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County Agriculture Community Educator says, “It is important to remember that all tests are designed to help give accurate information so you can make good decisions regarding how to steward your land resources. In this case, let us always remember that maintaining healthy soil goes far beyond what type of soil test you choose.”

Whether interested in doing a standard soil test or are interested in learning more about Cornell’s advanced testing, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County can help by discussing needs, supplying the correct forms, explaining the best way to take a soil sample, and following up with any questions people may have after receiving your results.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County has a deep-rooted local presence that is responsive to the needs of the communities. In addition to the support they provide to the county’s agricultural community, they also offer many outreach programs on the importance of nutrition and food preparation. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County’s mission is to interpret, disseminate, and deliver research-based information and knowledge on issues relevant to Oswego County youth, individuals, families, farms and communities; and further, to contribute to improving the quality of life in Oswego County through education and empowering volunteers and staff to lead, guide, and teach.

For more information on soil testing or the Agriculture Program for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County, contact Josh Vrooman, Agriculture Community Educator at 315-963-7286 ext. 200 or email at jwv33@cornell.edu.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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