A new farmer looking to venture into farming a soil test would be important to know what inputs are needed, how much is needed, are there soil borne diseases, are there nematodes in the soil, is the soil texture okay.
For example, a fruit or an avocado farmer how is the subsoil where the roots grow deep into, in a soil with a lot of clay sub soil and whose soil texture is not good, avocado farming would not be good.
When it’s very dry the sub soil will be very dry for roots to thrive properly and when it’s very wet the sub soil will be too wet and there will be water logging and drainage is affected which leads to root diseases.
Experts can also advice on which other crops a farmer can grow in the soil, but in most cases it’s the farmer who decides which crop they would like to grow and analysis is done based on that plant.
If the soil is not favorable for the farmer’s choice of crop the scientists can suggest crops which can do well instead.
For example, for extremely salty soils crops suggested would have to be more salt tolerant other than the farmers’ choice of crops.
Soil testing prices are competitive and affordable for instance for a complete soil analysis it costs about 5,000 Kenya Shillings per sample with accurate recommendation.
A farmer should carry out soil testing to:
Soil testing ensures a farmer grows with less by saving on using fertilizers or manure. A farmer uses less inputs as they give crops what they need and get more production, saving money and minimizing wastage.
This also has another effect as it’s an environmental issue leading to too much fertilizers into the water body affecting the aquatic life.
A farmer needing soil correction may need weeks or months before the next planting for incorporation of nutrients e.g. putting lime in the soil during land preparation.
Checking the nutrition status of the soil takes 7 working days or shorter depending with the condition of the soil if it’s dry or not. There are no mobile testing kits, experts use wet chemistry where the sample goes to the lab and is taken through the various stages of analysis.
There are agronomists in every county who visit farmers once in a while and take them through soil analysis reports to make sure the farmer understands the report results and implement them to get an impact to the farmer and output of the investment. This is free as an after sale support.
It is also important to test irrigation water as it has a direct effect on the status of the soil and should thus be tested on its’ suitability. For example, if the irrigation water has a high level of sodium it will not be suitable.