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Run Fall Soil Tests For Spring Planting
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Testing soils in the fall means better prepared soil and one less thing to do in the spring.
Larry Oldham, extension soil specialist at Mississippi State University, said there is very little difference in results between spring and fall testing. Because of this, he recommended getting soil testing done in the fall.
"If the soil test calls for corrective action, you have an entire winter to plan your fertility program," Oldham said. "It's often easier to get into the field in the fall for samples than during the more hectic spring planting rush."
Another benefit of fall soil tests is that testing laboratories are not as rushed in the fall as they are in the spring and results may come back sooner.
Fall soil tests allow farmers and gardeners to add phosphorus, potassium, lime and other nutrients as required. However, there are certain conditions that must be met before phosphorus or potassium can be added in the fall.
"If the soil test calls for liming, fall-applied lime will have more time to neutralize soil acidity," Oldham said. He recommended using high quality Mississippi Grade A lime.
Fall soil testing is especially useful for row crops.
"If farmers are considering using grid sampling or site specific management, gathering soil samples in the fall will give them plenty of time to develop the decision maps for next year's plantings," he said.
For winter annuals, gardeners should soil test immediately because planting time is almost here.
Oldham said soil test results are valid from one to three years, and vary with the type of management and use the soil receives. When taking samples, run separate tests on differently managed fields or plots.
Oldham said information on how to collect soil samples is available at local extension offices. Soil samples can be given to local extension agents for testing at the MSU lab. These soil tests cost $3 per sample.