Another fertility issue to consider is soil acidity. In North Carolina, factors such as weather and the leaching of nutrients make soils naturally acidic. Soil pH and lime recommendations are two of the most important items of information provided on a soil-test report.

“On especially sandy soils, I expect there may have been considerable changes in pH over the past four to five months,” Hardy said. “If a field was borderline in needing lime last year and none was applied, it definitely needs to be tested this year.

“This was one of the wettest growing seasons I can remember. Growers whose crops drowned or rotted may want to forget this past season, but they need to let it remind them that soil testing in the coming months is not optional.”

Growers planning to plant small grains this fall are especially urged to sample ahead of that crop. The sooner samples are submitted to the department’s soil-testing laboratory, the sooner recommendations can be implemented to get the crop started off with the best fertility possible.

For samples received until mid-November, soil test results are free and the turnaround time is generally two weeks.

Beginning this fall, a peak-season fee of $4 per sample will be charged for all soil samples processed from Nov. 28 through March 31. From April until the Thanksgiving holidays, no fee will be imposed.

The North Carolina General Assembly approved the peak-season fee in its most recent appropriations bill.

Imposition of the peak-season fee will trigger some changes in the way soil samples are handled, submitted and paid for. Information on these changes will be available online at http://www.ncagr.gov/agronomi as they are implemented. Growers are urged to avoid the fee by submitting samples early.

NCDA&CS regional agronomists provide advice on how to collect and submit agronomic samples to alleviate nutrient problems. For contact information, visit www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/rahome.htm.

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