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Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences - Virginia Tech Soil Testing Lab

    Dual pH Analyzer
    Dual pH Analyzer
    sample extraction

Mission

The Virginia Tech Soil Testing Laboratory is affiliated with both Virginia Cooperative Extension and the department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, and analyzes soil samples submitted by the public and university researchers. Tests are performed to evaluate the soil's nutrient potential and to determine the most beneficial application rates of fertilizer and lime for optimum plant growth. Accurate soil analysis with subsequent recommendations provide a tool for making economical and ecological land use decisions. Maximum economic yields are realized through careful management of nutrient availability. Over-fertilization is costly and may be damaging to the environment.

Operation

A routine soil test package includes analysis for soil pH, P, K, Ca, Mg, Zn, Mn, Cu, Fe, and B, along with fertilizer and lime recommendations for the specified crop. Soluble salts and organic matter tests are also available. Local Cooperative Extension offices in counties and cities throughout the state can provide soil sample boxes and information sheets.
Soil samples are analyzed and computer recommendations generated usually within three working days of receipt. The completed soil test reports, along with one or more soil test notes containing additional information on fertilization and liming, are either mailed or emailed directly to the client. A copy of the report is also made available to the local Cooperative Extension office.

 

Lab facts

  • Started operations in 1938.
  • Over 50,000 samples are tested each year.
  • More than a third of garden samples tested have too much lime, creating an alkaline soil that can cause micro-nutrient deficiencies in plants.
  • Lab uses over 1,000 gallons of liquid argon a year.
  • 1 in 7 existing lawn samples test low in phosphorus.
  • Lab uses automated pH analyzers designed and manufactured in Australia.
  • In a typical March, one person with half-time help types in client information for around 10,000 samples.
  • Data from soil test instrumentation is captured electronically, and never has to be entered by hand.