Today’s Topic: Early soil sampling encouraged

By on August 27, 2013

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

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Rainfall in most of North Carolina has been at record high levels for most of the year. As a result, most crops have struggled due to poorly developed root systems. The growth of upcoming crops could also be affected unless soil-nutrient reserves are monitored and replaced. We’re urging growers to be particularly vigilant about soil sampling this summer and fall.

Our sandy, light-colored soils have limited ability to hold nutrients to begin with. And when nature throws in excessive water, some nutrients move through the soil. Farmers are more familiar with the term “leaching.” Potassium, nitrogen and sulfur are most mobile nutrients. This year growers across the state really need to check the nutrient status of soils by soil testing.

The sooner folks submit samples to the department’s soil-testing lab, the sooner recommendations can be implemented to get the crop started off with the best fertility possible. For samples received until mid-November, soil test results are free and the turnaround time is generally two weeks.

There’s another incentive for people to submit their samples early. Beginning this fall, a peak-season fee of $4 per sample will be charged for all soil samples processed from Nov. 28 through March 31. The N.C. General Assembly approved the peak-season fee in its most recent appropriations bill.

In fiscal year 2013, the Agronomic Services Division analyzed nearly 368,000 soil samples. About 60 percent of those samples arrived at the lab between December and the end of March. That slowed processing turnaround time to nine weeks at one point. At other times of the year, processing can easily be completed in two to four weeks, depending on sample volume.

The new peak-season fee should accomplish two goals. First of all, it will encourage more growers to submit samples earlier, which should create a more balanced sample load throughout the year. Second, the fee will enhance the long-term prospects of the soil-testing program because receipts generated in the next two fiscal years will be used for improvements such as automated equipment and additional peak-season personnel.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about the need for early soil testing.

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