Soil Testing and Plant Diagnostic Services

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About the laboratory

There are currently two regional university laboratories in operation. The laboratory based in Mumford Hall at the University of Missouri handles samples from the northern half of the state, including the Kansas City Metro Area. A second lab based at the University's Delta Research Center at Portageville handles samples from the southern half of the state, including the St. Louis Metro Area.

Current routine soil fertility tests include

  • pHs
  • Organic matter
  • Neutralizable acidity
  • Ammonium acetate
  • Extractable K, Ca, Mg
  • Bray and Kurtz extractable P

Special tests include

  • Extractable Sulfate-S
  • DTPA extractable Zn, Fe, Mn, and Cu; Boron, Nitrate-N
  • Electrical conductivity
  • Textural analysis

The MU lab, in addition to soil testing, offers analysis of

  • Plant tissue
  • Greenhouse/nursery soil-less growing media
  • Compost
  • Water

These services are particularly valuable to horticulturists (fruit growers, ornamental growers and vegetable growers) and nursery producers wishing to fine tune their plant nutrition programs. This service further benefits growers as campus-based and regional horticulture specialists work directly with the soil testing lab to develop recommendations.

A soil test measures the relative soil fertility levels. It is a basic tool in planning an economically and environmentally sound fertility program. Plant analysis, on the other hand diagnoses or confirms diagnoses of a visible symptom. Combined with the soil test information, plant analysis allows fertilizer management to be fitted more closely to a crop's needs.

Plant analyses enable a more accurate measure of the nutritional health of fruit crops than through soil testing alone. It can also be used to help fine tune the efficiency of a fertilizer program before nutrient symptoms appear and is especially useful for perennial crops. Presence of nutrient deficiency symptoms indicates an acute shortage in the plant and is usually accompanied by reduced yields or fruit quality. Growers can avoid these losses by using plant analysis to identify nutrients approaching deficiency levels before yields decline or symptoms appear.


The laboratory, sponsored by MU Extension, provides soil testing, fertilizer recommendations and plant analytical services to farmers, home owners, vegetable and fruit growers, golf course superintendents and lawn and landscape specialists.

The laboratory has played an important role in the introduction and acceptance of soil testing as a guide to nutrient applications. Recommendations originating from the laboratory are actually a culmination of basic and applied soil fertility research conducted by university faculty and staff.

The laboratory maintains ongoing validation processes for existing methodology and nutrient recommendations. It provide leadership to the private sector through research, teaching and extension services with the goal of providing growers the best nutrient management information.


  • Help farmers make effective use of fertilizer to increase their financial returns
  • Benefit the society with improved environment and water quality through efficient use of fertilizer on farms, lawns and gardens
  • Maintain a soil analysis data base for research that will improve soil testing and fertilizer application
  • Ensure public and private labs are providing reliable and quality soil test results to the citizens of Missouri

Updated 3/1/11