The Virginia Tech Soil Testing Laboratory is affiliated with both Virginia Cooperative Extension and the School of Plant and 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.


A routine soil test package includes analysis of the plant-available levels of P, K, Ca, Mg, Zn, Mn, Cu, Fe, B, plus soil pH and estimated CEC, 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. Completed soil test reports are emailed directly to the client. A copy of the report is 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 had too much lime added, 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 6 existing lawn samples test low in phosphorus.
  • Lab uses automated pH analyzers designed and manufactured in Australia.
  • In a typical March, client sample information for around 10,000 samples needs to be typed in.
  • Data from soil test instrumentation is captured electronically, and never has to be entered by hand.