Interpreting Soil Reports

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What do the numbers mean on a soil report for pastures and hay fields? Find your soil report and let’s go over it together, keeping it basic for now. On the first sample ID make sure you remember which field it belongs to and follow the row out to lime. Lime recommendations will be given to you in tons per acre. Note, you do not want to put more than 2 tons per acre, even if the report calls for that. It is best to split between two separate applications because the soil cannot utilize that amount of lime during one application period.

Let’s continue on across the row and the letter N (nitrogen) probably will have 120-200 units listed below it. This is not pounds per acre. This is a common recommendation because nitrogen moves so often it is difficult to measure and it is known that this is a general need. This number also needs to be split and for most recommendations start with 70 units per acre. To achieve that measurement, choose your fertilizer and note the amount of nitrogen in it. To keep it simple let’s choose a fertilizer grade 19-19-19 (N-P2O5-K2O) for this example.

Take the 70 units of nitrogen needed for the pasture and divide it by the 19 representing the nitrogen in the fertilizer, then multiply by 100. That will give us 368 pounds per acre commercial fertilizer. Don’t stop there! We need to keep going to see what our phosphorus and potash require to determine the best results.

For this example our soil report came back with a phosphorus needs at 70 units and potash 80 units. Take the 70 units of phosphorus needed and divide it with the 19 in the fertilizer then multiply by 100. Do the same with the 80 units of potash. Phosphorus will come back as 368 pounds per acre and potash 421 pounds per acre. If using 19-19-19, the results show that you will need to use 368 pounds per acre to meet the requirement of nitrogen and phosphorus and 421 pounds per acre to attend the requirement of potash. To make this more relatable and easier to apply without over applying nitrogen, apply between 350-400 pounds per acre of 19-19-19 for the season. The following season re-sample your fields to adjust what fertilizer you may need.