soil test cost

sgullJanuary 14, 2014

Upon checking in the soil and pH testing FAQ questions at this site, it says basic soil tests can usually cost around $10 but I notice they're wanting $40 for a basic soil test at the extension service in my state. Isn't that rather high, or is the $10 charge for such a test probably how much it might have might have cost in the past sometime, before inflation or whatever?

Here is a link that might be useful: soil test cost my state

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That is disappointingly crazy high for what you get.

I understand large-scale agriculture isn't big there and they have to pay for the equipment that not many will use, but $40 for pH + NPK is crazy.

The "add-ons" that are pretty much standard (aside from texture) on most soil reports costing $45 more is mind blowing coming from a cooperative extension service.

At those prices this could be a case where sourcing an out-of-state test might not only make sense, it can probably save some money.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 5:36PM
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Yeah, that high price is definitely discouraging me from getting the soil tested, and as well even from getting a garden started. Dangit. I was hoping to get a few different samples tested from different locations. That would be 80 bucks, sheesh. Plus on top of that the shipping cost of the samples from my location to the testing place.
Wish I had a more affordable alternative.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 6:12PM
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Think about how much produce you can buy from a good grocery store with 40 bucks.....

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 12:53PM
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Yeah but I'd been intending on planting/growing flowers, not produce. Regardless, guess I'll just forget about planting/growing flowers, or anything for that matter, if it's such a big expense just to at least get a basic soil test which I would think would be an otherwise practical/sensible thing to have done.

This post was edited by sgull on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 13:25

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 1:06PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Not all tests are the same. Here's a list of possible things you might be getting:

P, K
N (separate test, sometimes included, sometimes extra)
Major minerals Ca, Mg,
Trace minerals Cu, Fe, Mn etc.
Organic matter
Total cation exchange capacity (CEC)

For that money I would be expecting all of these and a cappuccino. :-]

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 1:31PM
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It is possible to get set up and begin testing soil pH, using indicator dye, for around 20 dollars. The test solutions, supplied in one fluid ounce vials, would be sufficient for about 100 pH tests, so that works out to 20 cents per pH test. However, people have been planting crops and growing gardens, successfully, since long before modern soil science was invented. There is trial and error involved, and there is some effort involved in making your own compost, and using manure, or fish entrails, to provide nitrogen. Have you visited other gardens in your area, and seen what other local people are growing?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 2:26PM
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Yes, I realize there will likely be a lot of trial and error involved but I was hoping to minimize that. I suppose I could try to consider the trial and error part of the fun. I was reading up on composting and it seems like a complicated science itself which probably involves quite a bit of trial and error too (more fun).

Guess I could ask around at other people's successful-looking gardens and see if they're willing to share any of their secrets.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 3:47PM
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If the AK in your initial post means Alaska, then we can reasonably expect that you will have a short growing season, but with really long hours of daylight. You might have volcanic soil, I'm not sure about that. It would help to know if your neighbors are routinely putting down agricultural lime on their garden plots.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 7:55PM
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My location is actually SE (panhandle) of Alaska where we do indeed probably have a relatively short growing season, but not necessarily the really long hours of daylight like way up north. I've heard we have acidic soil here although I did a pH test with one of those cheap store-bought testers (probably unreliable) and it says pH neutral. But I'll check into it further to find out for sure.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 8:30PM
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If you have blueberries, cranberries, or rhododendrons growing locally, then you very likely have the same acidic soil in your yard. On the other hand, if there are local limestone outcrops, or if you have hard water, and lime deposits in the teakettle, then you might have alkaline soil pH.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 10:36PM
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What does that soil test consist of. Anytime you are comparing prices you need to compare apples to apples. If the test is for something more then just pH, P, K, Ca, and MG and OM $40.00 may be too high.
Alaska soils tend to be acidic, peat, permafrost, etc.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 6:28AM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Everything costs more in Alaska.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 1:27PM
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I did some additional checking/comparison of different labs/costs. I came across an outfit in Ohio that does an even more complete test for less expense.
Info says they offer a particular package for Alaskan soils.
"In addition to the basic Alaska soil test requirements, you will receive results
for organic matter, sulfur, magnesium, calcium, manganese, zinc, copper, boron, iron, cation exchange capacity and percent base saturation. Cost: $16.50 per sample." Probably cost me a lot more to send it there from here though, so that may offset the potential savings. I'll have to figure it out.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 2:15PM
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University of Massachusettes will do a basic test, including heavy metals, for $10.00.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 8:05PM
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