The goal of testing is to provide optimal conditions for plant growth and water absorption. Plants more effectively use water when the soil is loose, well aerated, fertile, and free of restrictive constituents such as gravel, trash or foreign objects. Ideal fertile soils have near neutral pH values, low sodium, moderate salinity, a moderate concentration of true soil organic matter, optimum concentrations of 14 essential nutrients, and freedom from non-desirable minerals such as high sodium and high concentrations of heavy metals. Properly amended soils have higher infiltration rates and better capture rainwater with less runoff and less erosion. This allows for well rooted plants that can effectively capture and utilize soil moisture including deep soil moisture.
If soils are non-friable and do not allow water to infiltrate, water is wasted as it runs off the surface which can lead to increased erosion of the soil. Soils with excess undesirable salinity need to be leached because high sodium disperses soil and precludes water use efficiency. Where required, sodium can be removed from soil by leaching after applying gypsum. Once the salinity is lowered, water use is more effective and is conserved.
When irrigating soils, the water needs to be applied at a lower rate than the rate of water infiltration. Irrigation needs to be cycled on and off with soils that have low rates of water infiltration.
The Soils Management Report looks at the following items:
- pH (acidity/alkalinity determination)
- Salinity and determination of the concentration of soluble salts
- Fertility for all 14 essential mineral nutrients
- Evaluation of the toxicity – determine the concentration of 14 non-essential minerals including arsenic, lead and cadmium
- Determination of soil texture (sand, silt, clay and gravel)
- Determination of soil organic matter and quality of the organic matter
- Estimate the rate of water percolation based on the soil texture, percent soil organic matter, salinity and bulk density
- Provide recommendations for soil acceptance and soil amending requirements