Soil testing should be the foundation upon which a farm’s fertilization program is based, says a Texas AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist.

Manda Anderson, IPM agent for Gaines County, says the only way to properly estimate how much of a nutrient is needed is through the soil sampling process.

“Due to high fertilizer input costs, producers can no longer afford unnecessary applications, Anderson says. She recommends farmers establish realistic yield goals, and then applying the amount of fertilizer necessary to meet that goal. “Setting a yield goal too high can lead to an over- application of a nutrient and excessive input costs.”

Other soil issues are also important for the 2014 crop. Following a lot of irrigation during the 2011, 2012 and 2013 growing seasons, identifying the soil’s salinity level is also important. Routine soil testing can identify soil salinity levels and suggest measures to correct specific problems in the soil.”

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She says irrigation water quality and lack of rainfall to dissolve salts and leach them out of the root zone may promote salinity problems.

“To determine if there is a problem and the type of problem in the soil, collect a soil sample and have it tested. The best indicator of the extent of a salt problem is through a detailed salinity analysis,” Anderson says.

She recommends producers contact Tommy Doederlein (at 806-872-3444, office, or 806-759-7030, cell).  “Tommy is the Extension Agent—IPM—for Dawson and Lynn Counties, but has agreed to work with the Gaines County IPM Program in providing soil sampling for Gaines County Producers.  The soil sampling is open to all crops and management systems. Tommy will conduct the soil sampling.  The soil samples collected can be used for both the fertility and salinity analysis.”

Samples will be sent to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory in College Station and results and recommendations will be sent directly to the producer.