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What should I know from a soil analysis?

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Javier M├ęndez Lorente
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Table of contents: What should I know from a soil analysis?

Soil testing has a long history dating back to the 19th century, when methods were developed to assess soil nutrient levels. Over time, these methods have become more sophisticated, incorporating tests of micronutrients y pH. Today, with technologies such as the DNA sequencingIn this way, the microbes present in the soil can be identified, allowing for more precise soil management strategies.

The process involves collecting soil samples from different areas of a farm and sending them to laboratories for analysis. These analyses provide crucial information on the microbial activitypH, the pH, the nutrients and the organic matter of the soil.

Ultimately, these analyses provide farmers with data that allow them to make informed decisions on how to manage their soil, which improves crop yields and overall soil health.

How to Test Your Soil | Sod University | Sod Solutions

Importance of the analyses

Soil testing is essential in agriculture to determine nutrient levels and to ensure that the soil is healthy growth of plants and a high performance of crops. Farmers sample their soils annually and evaluate the results to identify nutrient deficiencies or excesses. This allows them to adjust fertiliser application and other soil management practices to maintain a proper balance. Avoiding excessive fertiliser application helps prevent environmental problems such as water pollution, while promoting healthy soil conditions for crop growth.

The advantages of soil testing are diverse and fundamental for agriculture:

1. **Improving crop yields**: They identify nutrient deficiencies or imbalances that may limit plant growth and yields, allowing fertilisation practices to be adjusted to optimise crops.

2. **Reduction of fertiliser costs**They help to avoid over-application of fertilisers, which reduces costs and avoids negative impacts on the environment.

3. **Improving the soil health**They provide valuable information on soil health, such as organic matter content, pH and texture, allowing proper management to improve soil structure, nutrient cycling and water retention.

4. **Precision farming**: They identify areas with different soil characteristics and nutrient needs, facilitating more targeted fertilisation and other farm management practices.

5. **Environmental protection**By avoiding over-application of fertilisers and other soil amendments, they reduce the risk of nutrient run-off and associated environmental problems.

What types of soil testing are there?

Soil testing covers a wide range of physical, chemical and biological aspects that are crucial for understanding and improving soil quality and crop yields:

1. **Soil physical analysis**They evaluate the structure, texture and other physical characteristics such as density, permeability, porosity, temperature and stability of the aggregates. These aspects are related to nutrient and water retention, water infiltration and compaction.

2. **Soil chemical analysis**They include tests for pH, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, magnesium, calcium and other nutrients, as well as the bioavailability of macronutrients and micronutrients. They also assess organic matter and cation exchange capacity (CEC), important for retaining nutrients and preventing soil acidification.

3. **Total nutrient digestion (TND)**: Measures the net value of the soil in terms of nutrients, providing a comprehensive view beyond what is "available" in extract tests.

4. **Soil pH/acidity and salinity tests**They determine soil pH and salinity levels, which affect nutrient uptake, productivity and crop growth.

5. **Haney tests**: Developed by Dr. Rick Haney, they assess a variety of soil health parameters, such as the nutrient availabilityThe pH, pH, microbial activity and organic matter.

6. **PLFA tests**: Analyse phospholipids in the cell membranes of soil micro-organisms, providing information on functional groups of organisms.

7. **Microscopy**: Allows examination and study of the diversity of micro-organisms present in the soil, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes.

8. **Biological soil analysis**: They assess biological activity and microbial diversity, detecting disease risks, blockages in nutrient cycling and functions such as bioremediation and water management.

When and how often should I collect soil samples?

The frequency of soil sampling is crucial and is determined by several factors, such as soil type, cultivation and previous management practices. Sampling is recommended at least every 1-2 years in areas with uniform characteristics and practices. In areas with different soils or management, the frequency may be higher.

It is essential to sample before starting a new crop or after significant changes in management, such as fertilisation or irrigation. Consistency in the timing of sampling each year ensures traceability and consistency in results, allowing changes in soil health to be detected over time.

The frequency of sampling should be adapted to the specific needs and objectives of the crops. Consultation with a local agricultural office or a certified advisor is essential to establish an appropriate schedule for the particular situation.

What are the advantages of biological soil testing?

The advantages of using biological soil analyses are manifold:

1. **Detailed information**These analyses provide a detailed and specific picture of the micro-organisms present in the soil, which helps to identify potential soil health problems and to suggest appropriate management practices.

2. **Identification of nutrient deficiencies**They can detect nutritional imbalances that are not evident with traditional chemical methods of soil analysis.

3. **Improving soil health**By identifying potential health problems, biological soil testing allows informed decisions to be made to improve soil health, leading to greater long-term sustainability and productivity.

4. **Sustainability**These analyses can contribute to sustainability by reducing reliance on synthetic fertilisers and other inputs, thereby promoting natural soil health and supporting the long-term productivity of agricultural land.

5. **Profitability**They are cost-effective by allowing farmers and agricultural professionals to focus on specific areas that require attention, rather than applying inputs across the entire farm, which optimises the use of resources.

Thanks to technologies such as functional soil analysis BeCrop Testfarmers can quickly assess the microbial populations in their soil. Using artificial intelligence and data science, this technology identifies the microbes present and their impact on crops. BeCrop Test is the first biological soil analysis that predicts soil functionality in several dimensions, based on an extensive database of micro-organisms associated with different crops, obtained through years of research and soil sequencing.

Conclusions

In summary, soil testing is a essential tool for farmers to assess the health and productivity of their crops. By examining soil texture, structure and nutrient content, farmers can make informed decisions about management practices such as irrigation, fertilisation and soil amendment. Soil test results are also useful for identify potential soil health problems y developing improvement plans to optimise crop yields and long-term sustainability. Whether it is a basic soil analysis or a biological assessment as a BeCrop Testinvesting in soil testing is crucial for improving soil health and farm success.

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