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Soils - Part 9: Fundamentals of Soil Testing

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The major emphasis in this lesson is soil testing and understanding the procedures needed to take a representative soil sample. You will understand the term variability, how it affects soil tests, and how a soil test is developed.

[This lesson, as well as the other nine lessons in the Soils series, is taken from the "Soils Home Study Course," published in 1999 by the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.]

What is a Soil Test?

Soil testing is a practical and common sense means of using reliable chemical analyses to assess soil nutrient levels and determine how fertilizer use can be improved. Note that there are no words like “exact,” “precise,” or “accurate” in this definition. A key word is “assess,” which means “to evaluate,” “to estimate,” or “to set a fixed value.”

From the definition, the purpose of soil testing is:
—to assess nutrient levels, and
—to guide decisions in fertilizer use.

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