In my house, two words — “assembly required” — have come close to ruining more Christmas mornings than the Grinch himself. For many growers it seems the words “fertility program” can cause as much anxiety as staring down a Barbie Dreamhouse box under the tree. One savior that occasionally graces us with its presence both on Christmas morning and in the field however, is a good set of instructions. The right manual can ease the assembly process and increase the likelihood of a job well-done. When determining a fertility program, a soil sample report is that instruction manual and can very well keep you from running to the bowl of egg nog.
Upon first glance, a complete soil sample report can look like something a nuclear engineer carries in his briefcase. However, when each component is broken down, a picture of the soil conditions and needs start to come together. Organic matter percentage, cation exchange capacity, pH and base saturation percentages should be included on any standard soil test and are key to understanding the physical and chemical characteristics of a soil.