Planting Season is Here. Do You Know if Your Soil Is Fertile?


Photo: Thom Kendall for Umass Amherst

Source: UMass News & Media

UMass Amherst Soil Lab Provides Fertility and Texture Analyses, Lead Screenings for $20

The UMass Extension Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is open to the public and currently testing samples to assess how well the soil will support the kinds of crops one is hoping to grow. If your soil sample is unsuited to your agricultural requirements, the lab will suggest custom measures that you can take to amend your soil. The analyses costs $20 and will be completed in only 6 – 10 business days, thanks in part to a new pH-testing robot that significantly cuts down the testing time.

“We average 15,000 soil samples a year,” says Sam Glaze-Corcoran, the soil lab’s manager, “and though we’re open all year, we get approximately 30% of our requests during the spring.” 

The soil lab focuses on the needs of agriculturalists, from backyard gardeners to landscapers, golf-course managers and commercial farmers. “Though we do a lead screening,” says Glaze-Corcoran, “we’re not focused on toxicology. Instead, you tell us what you want to grow—apples, or turf, or carrots—and we tell you if your soil has the right nutrients and pH, and how to improve it if it needs improvement.” 

These recommendations reduce fertilizer costs, optimize productivity, support increased soil health and carbon sequestration, detect dangerous metals, support compliance with state nutrient management regulations and help prevent excess nutrients from entering the environment.

When providing one-on-one support to backyard gardeners, Glaze-Corcoran says that one of the most helpful things the lab can identify is if soil is being over-fertilized. Not only is overfertilizing a waste of money, but it can lead to issues with water contamination.

Though the lab accepts soil from anywhere in the U.S., they use a soil-chemistry profile that is specific to New England and New York. And, thanks to a recent state legislative investment in state-of-the-art technology including a pH-testing robot, the lab is able to conduct complex analyses in a fraction of the time that it took previously.

Those interested in testing their soil—whatever the season—can begin by visiting the UMass Extension Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Lab website. In addition, this free guidebook provides instruction on how to conduct simple on-site soil tests that will complement the lab’s results.

Contacts: Sam Glaze-Corcoran,


Spread the love

Leave a Reply

The Amherst Indy welcomes your comment on this article. Comments must be signed with your real, full name & contact information; and must be factual and civil. See the Indy comment policy for more information.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.