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Thinking Ahead: Test Soil Now, Benefit Later

STONEVILLE (September 29, 2016) - One of the most powerful tools a farmer has isn’t actually a tool at all. It’s the data gained from soil testing. The vast amount of information gathered from soil tests allows farmers to see the true potential of their fields.

With increased yields in recent years,
adequate fertilization becomes even
more important. Producing more bushels
per acre means more nutrients are being
removed from the soil. The chart above
demonstrates how many pounds of nutrients
are removed from fields each year based
on varying yield levels.

“Soil testing is the first step in maintaining a high-yield environment,” says Mississippi State University Extension/research specialist Bobby Golden. “Soil testing is especially important moving into 2017. We have received numerous calls about nutrient-deficient soybeans in 2016 that may have been avoided with adequate soil-test-based fertilization.” 

Not sampling could cost farmers tremendous yield and limits the quality of fertility recommendations. Yet, according to a 2015 best management practices survey conducted by the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board (MSPB), only 61 percent of soybean farmers say they soil test a majority of their acres.

Nutrient management isn’t a one-season process. It takes time for farmers to make fertility adjustments to their soil. When reading soil-test results, it’s important to compare this year’s results with results from past soil tests. Farmers should keep track of how their nutrient levels and soil pH change over time to determine how effective their nutrient applications are for their crop and whether they have an opportunity to reduce costs by applying nutrients more accurately.

“One confusion around soil testing is that a soil-test recommendation is for three years, and the recommendation only gets applied once,” adds Golden. “The truth is, when a farmer receives that soil-test information, that recommendation should be applied every year until the next soil test is taken.” 

MSU Extension and other laboratories analyze soil samples for nutrient content, but it is important for farmers to be able to read and understand their soil-test results. When used with yield data, test results can help farmers make the best management decisions for their fields.

For more resources on soil sampling and nutrient management, visit the MSPB’s website: 


MSPB is made up of 12 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soy checkoff on behalf of all Mississippi soybean farmers. These volunteers work to increase soybean farmer profitability by investing checkoff dollars in ongoing public research and extension programs that address Mississippi production challenges, thereby driving the adoption of best management practices developed through research and ensuring the sustainability of Mississippi soybean production.