Soil Testing and Plant Diagnostic Services

ADA Accessibile AddThis Widget

Commercial fruit and vegetable soil testing

When to sample

From the perspective of nutrient availability soil can be sampled any time of the year, as nutrient levels vary only slightly from season. A small decrease in exchangeable potassium may occur following a productive harvest, yet a field difference is unlikely to affect fertilizer recommendations.

Ideally, soil is sampled between crops such that corrective fertilizer and lime applications an be made before the next season. Although most producers take samples in spring, this is the time when our laboratories and county offices are overloaded with samples. A delay in the return of results may occur. Fall or winter sampling leaves more time for planning and corrective fertilizer management.

Commercial fruits, vegetables and turfs soil sample information form

Horticultural or commercial crops for which recommendations are given

Up to three crops with associated yields can be selected for each sample. So for each soil sample submitted you may get recommendations for apples, peaches and brambles. You may choose any combination of three of the crops listed in the table below.

Code Crop
Fruit - new plantings
1 Apples and pears
2 Blueberries
3 Brambles
Raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries
4 Grapes
5 Stone fruits
Peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, nectarines
6 Strawberries
Fruits - established plantings
7 Apples and pears
8 Blueberries
9 Brambles
Raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries
10 Grapes
11 Stone fruits
Peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, nectarines
12 Strawberries
21 Asparagus, new
22 Asparagus, established
23 Beans and peas
24 Beets
25 Broccoli
26 Brussels sprouts
27 Cabbage
28 Carrots
29 Caulifower
30 Cucumbers
31 Lettuce
32 Melons
Watermelons, cantaloupes
33 Onions, dry
34 Onions, green
35 Peppers
36 Potatoes
37 Pumpkin and squash
38 Radishes
39 Spinach
40 Sweet corn
41 Sweet potatoes
42 Tomatoes
Turf - establishment
61 Turf establishment or renovation
Turf - maintenance
62 Athletic field, cool season
Bluegrass, fescue, ryegrass
63 Athletic field, warm season
Bermudagrass, zoysiagrass
64 Commercial sod, cool season
Bluegrass, fescue, ryegrass
65 Commercial sod, warm season
Bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, buffalograss
66 Low maintenance turf, cool season
Bluegrass, fescue, ryegrass
67 Low maintenance turf, warm season
:Bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, buffalograss
Golf courses
68 Putting greens
69 Fairways, cool season
Bentgrass, ryegrass, bluegrass, tall fescue
70 Fairways, warm season
Bermudagrass, zoysiagrass
71 Tees, cool season
Bentgrass, ryegrass, bluegrass
72 Tees, warm season
Bermudagrass, zoysiagrass

How to take a soil sample

Jim Curley photoDivide the field into uniform areas
Each area should have the same soil color and texture, cropping history, and fertilizer, lime and manure treatments. One sample should not represent more than 20 acres on level, uniform landscapes, or five acres on hilly or rolling land. Within each area collect 15 to 30 subsamples (cores, boring or spade slices) in a zigzag pattern thruoghout the designated field area. The more variable the soil, the more subsamples should be combined per area samples. Mix the subsamples thoroughly in a clean plastic pail, and fill the sample box or bag to the fill line (one pint). If samples must be taken wet, they should be dried before being mixed and submitted to the laboratory. Do not exceed a drying temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit, and do not use a microwave unless only the nitrate test is requested.

Sample each area as follows
Scrape off all surface residue. Sample to a depth of 6 to 8 inches (plow layer) for cultivated crops or 3 inches for turf or sod fields. Sample row crop between rows, except for ridgetill plantings. Where ridge-till is used, take the sample to a depth of 6 to 8 inches on the "shoulder" of the ridge, avoiding the starter fertilizer band. Also avoid sampling dead or back furrows, terraces, old fence rows, lime or fertilizer spill areas, headlands, eroded knolls, low spots or small saline areas. Sample at least 300 feet away from gravel or crushed limestone roads because their dust changes soil pH.

Where to submit soil samples

  • County extension centers
    (preferred method)
  • Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory
    23 Mumford Hall
    Columbia, MO 65211
    Phone: 573-882-0623
    Fax: 573-884-4288
  • Soil Testing Laboratory Delta Research Center
    P.O. Box 160
    Portageville, MO 63873
    Phone: 573-379-5431
    Fax: 573-379-5875

Samples submitted directly to the lab should be accompanied by a sample information form and a check for the amount due payable to MU Soil Testing, unless you have an account with us. If you have an account with us fill in the firm and outlet number and we will bill you at the end of the month.

We encourage you to submit your samples through the county extension offices. Firms or businesses may set up individual accounts with the lab to submit the samples directly.

Each sample submitted to our lab should be accompanied by an information form. These forms should be filled out accurately for proper fertilizer recommendations. Including county names is essential for us to mail the soil test results to the appropriate area agronomist or horticulturalist. This information is important to determine the soil region and to complete the soil test summary report for the state.

Samples from firms should contain the firm and outlet number for proper return of results and billing.

Send the original form with the soil sample(s) and retain a copy for your records.

Send soil samples in proper containers such as the boxes and bags specifically designed for soil samples. (Avoid glass jars, coffee cans, plastic bags, etc.) If samples are very wet, allow them to air dry for a day before mailing. Wet samples should not be sent in sample boxes that are plastic lined as they will not allow soil to dry during transit.

Copy the serial number and field/sample ID from the sample information form to the soil sample container.

Commercial fruits, vegetables and turfs soil sample information forms and sample boxes can be obtained from the county extension centers or at the soil testing labs free of charge or printed from the Web.
Commercial fruits, vegetables and turfs soil sample information form (PDF)

Soil tests to request

Regular fertility tests
For a general analysis of a soil's fertility, a regular soil test package includes:

  • pH
  • Neutralizable acidity
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Organic matter
  • Cation exchange capacity

In certain cases additional tests may be required.

  • Micronutrients
    Zinc, iron, copper and manganese
    Micronutrients may be desired in high pH soils
  • Sulfur
    Sandy soils low in organic matter may have sulfur deficiency
  • Salt content
    (electrical conductivity)
    Soils with salt problems should be tested for salt content (e.g. salt or fertilizer spills, heavy applications of manure, irrigating with alkaline water, can lead to salt problems.

Soil fertility analysis tests and fees

See our charges.

In the labTurnaround time

  • Soil sample analysis
    1.5 working days after samples are received in the lab
  • Plant, compost, greenhouse media and water analysis
    4 to 5 working days after samples are received in the lab

If samples are mailed allow time to and from the lab. Results of samples submitted through county extension offices are mailed first to the county agronomist or horticulturalist for comments or individualized recommendations. The county then mails the recommendations to the person submitting the sample.

Soil test reports can be emailed on request at no charge or faxed for a nominal fee.

Interpreting the resulti

Interpreting the results and recommendations of soil tests

Interpretations and recommendations are based on the crops you select on the Soil Information Forms. As recommendations differ for different crops, it is important you select the cropping options you intend to plant.

The soil test results you receive will contain the following information:

  • Field information and sample ID you provided on the sample information form.
  • Soil test results
    • pHs
    • Phosphorus
    • Potassium
    • Calcium
    • Magnesium
    • Organic matter
    • Netralizable acidity
    • Calculated cation exchange capacity
    • Electrical conductivity
  • If you requested zinc, manganese, iron, copper, sodium, nitrate, ammonium, or boron these results are also given.
  • Suggested fertilizer requirements in pounds per acre for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P2O5), and potassium (K2O), are given (zinc, and sulfur are also given if requested).
  • Lime and magnesium treatments are based on soil test levels and crop options.

Interpretations and recommendations

Updated 5/13/15

University of Missouri Extension
© 1993 to Curators of the University of Missouri, all rights reserved