Throughout North Carolina, many pastures are still in decline due to last year’s drought. Now that some rain has arrived, it’s time to start turning that situation around. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler urges anyone planning to renovate cool-season pasture grasses in the fall to begin that process by submitting soil samples now.

At the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ soil testing lab, sample turn-around time is shortest during summer months. From the time samples arrive at the lab, analysis takes two weeks or less. Soil reports are immediately posted online at www.ncagr.com/agronomi.

The primary reason for soil testing now is to get the lime recommendation. If lime is applied in June, then there will be sufficient time for it to raise soil pH before pasture renovation in the fall. Proper soil preparation now will help ensure the success of re-seeding efforts in September.

To collect a representative soil sample, follow these basic guidelines: For each sample, collect 15 to 20 cores from random locations within a uniform 5- to 15-acre field. Collect cores to a depth of 4 inches. Mix these cores well in a plastic bucket, and then use this mixture to fill the soil sample box. For additional instructions, contact an NCDA&CS regional agronomist or visit www.ncagr.com/agronomi/uyrst.htm#info.

The best way to apply lime will depend on the amount recommended in the soil report. For 1.5 tons or less, surface application is acceptable. If the report recommends more than 1.5 tons and the pasture cannot be tilled, then surface-apply 1 ton of lime and apply the rest the following year. However, if tillage is an option, the best approach is to mix the entire amount of lime thoroughly into the soil. Incorporation of lime into the soil will give the new stand of grass a better chance of withstanding dry conditions.

For advice on soil testing and pasture nutrient needs, visit www.ncagr.com/agronomi/rahome.htm and contact the NCDA&CS regional agronomist serving your county.