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Base fertility on soil testing

Soil testing should be the foundation upon which a farm’s fertilization program is based, says a Texas AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist.

Soil testing should be the foundation upon which a farm’s fertilization program is based, says a Texas AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist.

Manda Anderson, IPM agent for Gaines County, says the only way to properly estimate how much of a nutrient is needed is through the soil sampling process.

“Due to high fertilizer input costs, producers can no longer afford unnecessary applications, Anderson says. She recommends farmers establish realistic yield goals, and then applying the amount of fertilizer necessary to meet that goal. “Setting a yield goal too high can lead to an over- application of a nutrient and excessive input costs.”

Other soil issues are also important for the 2014 crop. Following a lot of irrigation during the 2011, 2012 and 2013 growing seasons, identifying the soil’s salinity level is also important. Routine soil testing can identify soil salinity levels and suggest measures to correct specific problems in the soil.”

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She says irrigation water quality and lack of rainfall to dissolve salts and leach them out of the root zone may promote salinity problems.

“To determine if there is a problem and the type of problem in the soil, collect a soil sample and have it tested. The best indicator of the extent of a salt problem is through a detailed salinity analysis,” Anderson says.

She recommends producers contact Tommy Doederlein (at 806-872-3444, office, or 806-759-7030, cell).  “Tommy is the Extension Agent—IPM—for Dawson and Lynn Counties, but has agreed to work with the Gaines County IPM Program in providing soil sampling for Gaines County Producers.  The soil sampling is open to all crops and management systems. Tommy will conduct the soil sampling.  The soil samples collected can be used for both the fertility and salinity analysis.”

Samples will be sent to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory in College Station and results and recommendations will be sent directly to the producer.


All fees should be paid prior to the field being sampled. Costs are:

  • The cost of the sampling service will be $50 per field, for fields that are 160 acres or less in size.
    • Fields larger than 160 acres will be charged at a rate of $0.3125 per acre for the sampling.
    • There will be an additional charge of $15 minimum if a field is to be sampled as more than one management zone based on crop planted, soil type, landscape position and/or yield zones.
  • The cost of the laboratory analysis you request will be added to the sampling costs.
    • These costs range from $10 to $74 per sample.
    • For example the Routine plus Micronutrients and Residual Nitrogen analysis costs $22.  When the Detailed Salinity analysis is included the cost is $37.
  • There will be an additional charge of 50 cents per mile for travel from the Dawson County office to the first field Doederle samples that day and from the last field he samples back to the Dawson County office.  Travel costs will be divided between all producers who had their fields sampled that day.

Doederlein needs to meet with each producer to locate fields on a computer or from a plat,” Anderson says. “Also, if there are any special instructions for me to access the fields I will need that information. Tommy will be driving a pickup truck through the field and pull a core every one-tenth to two-tenth mile to obtain the composite samples.”


Also of interest:

Farmers have a lot to consider in fertility management

Managing crop nutrients through soil testing

High fertility prices spur need for efficiency

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