An experienced farmer or gardener can usually tell if the ground is suitable for planting merely by its appearance and how it feels to the touch. However, visual and tactile observations alone are insufficient to guarantee that a crop will actually thrive once planted. It is the invisible chemical and biological contents that will determine the actual quality, and only careful soil analysis can confirm whether these are all present and in the necessary concentrations and proportions.
For example, plants differ in their tolerance to pH. Some, like blueberries, prefer an acidic environment, while most herbs will only thrive at a pH greater than seven. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the three macronutrients required by all plants to varying degrees at different stages in their development. They are so-called because relatively high concentrations of these are necessary compared with the more comprehensive range of essential secondary and micronutrients. One reason to perform a soil analysis is that it can help growers decide which crops to plant. On the other hand, if that decision has already been taken, the test results will reveal any nutritional deficiencies that will need to be rectified before proceeding to plant.
The signs of plant malnutrition are readily visible. They may result from either insufficiency or excess of a particular nutrient. For example, a lack of phosphorus can cause plants to produce poor-quality fruit and leaves that may tend to wither and die. By contrast, too much can interfere with the action of nitrogen, zinc and iron, underlining the importance of soil analysis. Whether due to inhibitory activity or low concentration, the consequences of nitrogen deficiency can often be fatal. The element is an essential component of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, DNA and RNA.
Often these deficiencies or excesses result from the use of natural organic fertilizers. While animal manure and compost are indeed a source of plant nutrients, their concentrations and relative proportions are unknown and can vary widely. If one plans to re-plant a field that has been fertilized in this fashion, performing a preliminary soil analysis will be essential.
Various commercial soil testing kits are available for personal use. However, these are generally limited to measuring nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium concentrations and pH and are of limited accuracy. Furthermore, they cannot assay other essential secondary and micronutrients and should, therefore, not be considered an alternative to professional laboratory testing.
By contrast, Kynoch Fertilizers offers a comprehensive range of services, including periodic farm visits to perform an in-depth soil analysis to formulate a fertilisation programme to maximise quality and yield. We invite you to learn more about this invaluable service and how it could benefit you or contact us today.