Soil testing for vegetable crops

AG ADVICE - October 2021

Karen OMalley - Senior Land Services Officer, Horticulture and Plant Biosecurity

Soil amendment strategies can only be decided if the condition of the soil is known. A soil test is important for several reasons:

  • to optimize crop production
  • to protect the environment from contamination by runoff and leaching of excess fertilisers
  • to aid in the diagnosis of plant health problems
  • to save money and conserve energy by applying only the amount of fertiliser needed

Ensuring the soil’s biology levels and soil structure is the best it can be keeps the cost of using fertilisers as low as possible.

As no two paddocks will have identical soil related problems, each paddock will need a tailored soil management solution rather than following a rigid “catch all” prescription.

After understanding the baseline of your soil's health, a few of the corrective methods available to vegetable growers include:

  • Adding organic matter through green manure crops and animal manure
  • Adding gypsum to improve structural form and stability
  • Adding lime to improve structure and adjust the pH
  • Encouraging earthworms and soil biota to improve nutrient cycling
  • Fine tuning nitrogen applications to limit soil acidification
  • Avoiding waterlogging and losing dissolved nutrients by having an irrigation management plan

The 2021 AUSVEG Soil Wealth ICP project has developed a guide to help growers and agronomists interpret conventional ‘chemical’ soil tests and identify soil chemical constraints for commercial vegetable production in Australia.

This resource can be used to guide growers’ site-specific decisions on nutrition management.

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