Biome Makers Blog

The Importance of Soil Testing in Preseason Planning in Agriculture


Preseason planning is essential to farming, as it helps farmers prepare for the upcoming growing season and optimize crop yields. A critical aspect of preseason planning is soil testing, which involves collecting and analyzing soil samples to understand the soil's nutrient availability and overall health.

Farmers need to conduct soil tests before planting. We'll explore why soil testing in preseason planning is crucial, the advantages of a biological soil test, and tips for conducting one. You'll learn how to select a reliable laboratory, use proper sampling techniques, and utilize the results. When farmers understand their soil more thoroughly, they can improve their harvests.

Why Conduct A Soil Test?

Understanding your soil is crucial for successful farming. Soil tests offer valuable information that can shape your preseason planning. Farmers can make informed decisions to optimize crop yields and soil health by identifying nutrient levels, pH, potential issues, and biological bottlenecks.

  1. Nutrient Cycling Pathways: Soil tests provide vital information about nutrient cycling pathways, ensuring sufficient support for healthy plant growth.
  2. pH Levels: Determine the soil's acidity or alkalinity, which is essential for meeting the specific pH requirements of different crops.
  3. Soil Structure: Identify potential issues like compaction or poor drainage that can negatively impact crop yields.
  4. Cost-Effective Decision-Making: Advanced biological soil tests inform fertilization and management decisions, preventing unnecessary inputs and promoting soil health.

Soil testing is also a cost-effective way to inform fertilization and other management decisions, as it helps farmers avoid applying unnecessary inputs that could be detrimental to soil health.

Rather than blindly applying fertilizers, farmers can use testing results to determine which nutrients are lacking and apply the appropriate fertilizers in the right amounts. This helps reduce the risk of over or under-fertilizing, which can harm soil health and plant growth.

Soil Testing is an effective way to make informed fertilization decision

How to Conduct a Soil Test

Follow these steps to ensure accurate results and make the most of your preseason planning. For more detailed steps on how to collect soil samples, check out our blog.

  1. Select a Reliable Laboratory: The accuracy of results depends on the laboratory's analysis, so choose wisely.
  2. Proper Sampling Procedures: Collect representative soil samples, ensuring accurate reflection of soil health. Use recommended tools and follow sanitization guidelines.
  3. Shipping and Storage: Follow proper storage and shipping guidelines to preserve soil samples' integrity.

Discover how agricultural soil testing offers valuable insights to growers and  farmers for enhancing crop yields and soil health. Read the Complete Guide >>

A soil test is relatively simple, but farmers should observe proper sampling procedures to ensure accurate results. The first step is to select a reliable testing laboratory.

Next, farmers will need to collect soil samples from their fields. At Biome Makers, we provide sampling tubes and spoons. The amount of soil necessary is approximately ¼ of the tube—about 5 gr. per sample. No additional equipment is required to collect soil samples, though we strongly suggest wearing gloves to protect your hands.

Before and after taking each sample, it is essential to sanitize your trowel with ethanol and let it fully dry before continuing. This helps prevent contamination and ensure accurate results. Ideally, samples should arrive at the lab within 72 hr from the time they are collected. However, we have not observed significant changes in the microbial communities for up to 15 days after sampling (at room temperature). Given that soil microbiomes are sensitive, these are our recommended guidelines for proper storage and shipping:

  • Soil samples can be stored long-term at -20 °C (-4 °F).
  • Soil samples can be stored for up to 3 days if refrigerated at 0-6 °C (32-48 °F).
  • Optimum shipping for soil samples should be within 1 day, with a maximum transit time of 5 days at room temperature.

Once the soil samples are collected, they should be labeled appropriately and sent to the testing laboratory for analysis. Soil tests vary from basic tests that measure nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels to comprehensive tests that measure nutrient cycling, biodiversity, and microorganism levels. Tests available for specific issues might include soil pH or salinity, as well as chemical, physical, and biological analysis.

Traditional soil analyses provide information about the physical properties (e.g., texture) and the chemical properties of the soil, such as pH or the concentration of nutrients, but do not take soil microbiology into account.

Instead of measuring the amount of nutrients in the soil, Biome Makers' BeCrop Test measures the microbial processes involved in nutrient cycling, such as those that fix carbon into the soil or supply plants with available nutrient forms (e.g., mineralization or solubilization), and those that immobilize nutrients back into forms not readily available for plants (immobilization and denitrification).

You can purchase a BeCrop Test on Biome Makers' website >>

How to interpret soil test results:

Once the soil test results are received, it is time for farmers to carefully review and interpret the data to understand what the results mean for their fields. The results will typically include information on the levels of various nutrients in the soil, plus the pH and potential problems such as compaction or poor drainage.

Farmers can pay attention to blocked nutrient cycling pathways and disease risks, both of which impact plant growth. For example, a specific blocked nutrient pathway may limit plant growth, while an excess of the same nutrient could potentially be toxic to plants. See how one corn and soybean farmer in Nebraska identified a blocked potassium pathway using BeCrop Tests and rectified the problem through biological products.

Using soil test results to optimize crop yields and soil health:

  1. Addressing Nutrient Deficiencies: Apply appropriate fertilizers based on soil test results to ensure essential nutrients for crop growth.
  2. Management Practices: Implement cover cropping, composting, and integrated pest management to improve soil health.

Once farmers have interpreted their soil test results, they can use this information to optimize crop yields and soil health. For example, if the soil test results reveal a deficiency of a particular nutrient, farmers can apply the appropriate fertilizers to address this deficiency and ensure that their crops have the nutrients they need to grow.

There are also several management practices that farmers can use to improve soil health and reduce the need for synthetic inputs. Cover cropping involves planting a cover crop between rows of main crops to add organic matter to the earth and improve soil structure.

Composting is another effective way to improve soil health, as it adds nutrients and beneficial microbes to the soil. Integrated pest management (IPM) involves using a combination of cultural, biological, and chemical methods to control pests and reduce the need for synthetic pesticides. By implementing practices of this nature, farmers can help to improve soil health and support the long-term productivity of their fields.


Soil testing during farming preseason planning facilitates a deeper understanding of soil nutrient levels and overall health. A soil test can identify and address any potential problems with the ground, such as nutrient deficiencies or pH imbalances, before planting.

Soil testing can also be a cost-effective way to inform fertilization and other crop management decisions. By leveraging data results to optimize crop yields and soil health, farmers can help ensure their fields' long-term productivity for years to come.

Complete Guide to Soil Testing in Agriculture


Originally published January 11, 2023 / Updated January 18th, 2024