For professional agriculturists, novice home gardeners and even building contractors, soil analysis is one of the crucial tasks that you need to perform in order to assess just how suitable the soil is for your needs. Soil variations occur because of geographic location, the mineral deposits near an area, recent human activity that could change or even pollute the soil content, as well as the general features of the environment that could add or subtract elements from the soil, such as a volcano that can various minerals.
Here are the steps to conducting your own soil analysis.
- Get a sample. Before taking your sample, however, keep your purpose in mind first. Depending on the purpose of your soil tests, you will check for specific aspects of the soil only. A gardener, for instance, will look for soil that is rich in nutrients found in compost that will allow plants to flourish. On the other hand, soil that is being tested for construction work will be checked for porosity and hardness at various depths, to ensure that the ground is stable enough for construction, and to rework the foundations for the building if necessary. For plant growing, getting samples of the humus or top soil and another sample around 2 to 3 feet deeper is enough. For checking soil composition for stability, deeper soil samples need to be obtained.
- Check sediments. For plant growing and general soil analysis, a visual inspection of the sediments found in the soil is a fair indicator of the quality. Several inches of decomposing natural matter such as from dead insects, leaves, bark, and wood is a good sign that the soil is rich in nutrients. Another indicator is the moisture content of the soil, to see whether there will be enough water for the plants to absorb and use to grow. Check also for life activity in the soil. Healthy soil will have small insects as well as earth worms burrowing in the sample, which means that there are enough food materials to foster life in the soil.
- Check chemical content. Next, check for the chemical content of the soil. This involves a toxicity check, especially if you are living in possible hazardous lands, such as in areas that are near major waste facilities, power plants that can generate toxic waste and may have seeped through the plant’s storage units, or even agricultural lands. Agricultural lands can sometimes contain large traces of sulfur, nitrates, and potassium that can be dangerous even for plant growing. This is due to the over-use of chemical based fertilizers. In checking the chemical content, you should avail of soil test kits that can include sampling chemicals. These kits will look for specific chemicals that you are looking for. Some kits work like acid tests, with tester strips that will change color to indicate the presence of certain chemicals.
- Send to labs. In some cases, there are chemicals that cannot be detected by simple soil and sand analysis kits, however. Lead analysis and mercury analysis, for instance, should be handled by the correct authorities with complete laboratories and know the best soil methods to use for tests that will determine not only the presence of lead, mercury, or other highly dangerous substances, but which will also determine just how contaminated the soil is.
Once you have conducted soil analysis, you can be sure that the ground you are working in will be fit for whatever activity you are planning.