Meanwhile, Dr. Mark McFarland, AgriLife Extension Service soil fertility specialist, said producers planning to add fertilizer to pastures would be well advised to get a soil test first.
“Prices for many fertilizer products are at all-time highs,” McFarland said. “With a soil test, you get a prescriptive recommendation for each field; that helps keep costs down.”

A soil test measures plant nutrients such as potassium, calcium and magnesium that often are in the soil naturally. But it also measures any carryover fertilizer left unused in the soil.
“If you made that first fertilizer application last year and didn’t get any growth because of the drought, there’s a good chance that fertilizer is still there,” he said.

McFarland said a good soil test relies on collection of a composite soil sample that is representative of the area being tested. He said a composite is where 10 to 15 sub samples are combined to form one sample.

A separate composite soil sample is needed for each field up to about 40 acres in size. Larger fields, especially those with different soil types across the field, should be sampled more intensively.

“Sampling larger fields based on soil type allows more precise selection and application of fertilizer, and that can save money and grow more and higher quality grass.” McFarland said.

Cost for a routine sample is $10. Submittal forms and sampling instructions may be found online at http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/.

“Soil testing is a scientifically proven and time-tested method for managing fertilizer, and can have a huge economic impact on your operation,” he said.