The Coastal Bend Soil Testing Campaign began Oct. 1 and will run through Nov. 17 to help row crop farmers and ranchers with improved pastures prepare for next year’s growing season, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel in Aransas, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Kennedy, Nueces, Refugio and San Patricio counties. Soil testing will help determine the soil nutrient status of fields and pastures for area producers.

Soil testing is a critical tool for farmers and ranchers. With rising costs of everything from land values to fertilizers, and the downward trend of cotton and feed grain market prices, it’s important that producers put themselves in the best position to take advantage of every bit of their land’s value. Knowing the exact fertility value of their farm’s soil helps landowners from wasting money on unnecessary fertilizers; because growers can reduce fertilizer costs by crediting themselves for any residual fertility in their soils and applying only what is needed to make their realistic yield goal.

There are several steps involved in obtaining a soil test through the soil testing campaign. The first is to obtain soil sample bags and instructions from an AgriLife Extension county office. After collecting composite samples, participants then select the proper test and complete the information sheet, which can be returned to the AgriLife Extension county office for a 33 percent discount on the testing fee and free shipping. Soil samples will be analyzed by the Texas A&M University Soil and Forage Testing Laboratory; results will be sent directly to the producer.

Dr. Levi Russell, AgriLife Extension economist in Corpus Christi, said studies show significant price increases in resources that directly affect agricultural producers.

“Between 2009 and 2013, national trends show price increases of 35 percent for nitrogen and 13 percent for potash and phosphate,” he said. “In Texas, land rent is up 19 percent, and land values are up 18 percent.” Those increases create a squeeze on producer profits, Russell said. Successful farming and ranching hinges on close scrutiny of inputs, especially fertilizer, which is a significant component in every crop budget.

“Efficient use of nutrients, as well as smart shopping, is crucial for producers,” he said. “A good soil testing program can help growers make those wise shopping decisions. It’s prudent and common sense to apply only those inputs that are needed, and the only way to know what is needed is to evaluate the results of a good soil analysis.”

To learn more about soil fertility and mineral nutrition, producers can view the following presentations by Dr. Sam Feagley, AgriLife Extension state soil environmental specialist in College Station. The links below are large files and may load slowly:

– Nitrogen: http://bit.ly/AgriLifeNitrogen

– Phosphorus: http://bit.ly/AgriLifePhosphorus

– Potassium and secondary nutrients: http://bit.ly/AgrLifePotassium

– Micronutrients: http://bit.ly/AgriLifeMicronutrients

For more information, contact the local AgriLife Extension county office at 361-767-5223, email j-ott@tamu.edu. Also, please make plans to join us for Coastal Bend Fall CEU Conference on October 23rd. In addition to providing pesticide applicators and certified crop advisors the opportunity to obtain continuing education units, the event will also provide information to applicators on herbicide risk reduction strategies, weed management and new technologies that will soon be available to area crop producers.