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Understanding Your Results

Interpreting Your Soil Test Report

Once you receive your test results from Dairyland Laboratories, you'll want to review the reports in order to gauge what interventions may be optimal for your food plot goals.  The Laboratory Analysis portion of the Soil Test Report is exactly what the name  implies. These analysis numbers obtained from testing the soil sample are used to calculate the lime and nutrient requirements of the specific crops selected. The column of most concern here is Soil pH. Most food plot crops will perform well in a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. A pH reading of 6.8 to 7.0 would be ideal. As the pH reading goes down, the acidity of the soil increases and nutrient availability decreases. A pH reading in the mid 5’s or lower represents an acidic soil environment where food plot crops will not grow well.

The Interpretation Section translates the lab numbers into a bar graph that shows the phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) levels based on the nutrient demand of the various crops. Ideally, these numbers would be in the Optimum range. If the graph shows P or K in the Low or Very Low range, then increasing the fertility of these nutrients over crop removal would be appropriate. If the soil tests Very High or Excessively High, then applying more of these nutrients in the form of fertilizer is not advisable. High P levels are common in woodland food plots as decayed plant material is high in phosphorous.

Excess levels of P can cause problems in the environment through soil erosion into nearby waterways.

The lime required is based on the analysis of the soil sample, the buffering ability of the soil, and the target pH of the crops specified. The lime recommendation is listed in terms of Tons/Acre for a coarse (60-69) lime and a fine (80-89) ag-lime. Although the challenges of spreading lime on food plots can be great, correcting soil pH is the most important step in growing successful plots. Finely ground lime incorporated into the soil will give faster results, but coarse lime will be effective, it just takes longer to dissolve. Pelletized lime can be easier to handle and spread when working with smaller plots and will deliver similar results as an 80-89 ag-lime. Applying lime in any form, at any time is beneficial. If applying the recommended rate all at once is not feasible, applying smaller amounts on a yearly basis can get the pH headed in the right direction.

Fertilizer to Apply

The Nutrient Recommendation Section will list the nutrient needs of each crop based on the anticipated yield goal. In other words, the amount of N, P (P2O5) and K (K2O) required to produce the amount of growth (yield) for each crop listed. The Nutrients to Apply Section will adjust the P and K numbers based on the lab analysis, and subtract for any legume credits from previous crops or manure applied. Manure is generally not spread on food plots but don’t overlook the nitrogen credits that a clover blend can provide. An older clover plot or a spring seeded clover that is double-cropped and followed by a fall annual crop, will provide approximately 50 lbs. of nitrogen for the fall crop or about half of what is needed.

Example Fertilizer Calculations


Nutrients to Apply
  N    P2O5  K2O
Forage Brassica  2.5 Ton Yield  100    25  120
Clover 3 Ton Yield   0  40 180

For fields with larger acreage, an Agronomy Center would formulate a custom blended fertilizer to be bulk spread as follows:                            

Forage Brassica Clover


195 #/a



55 #/a


87 #/a


200 #/a


300 #/a


450 #/a


387 #/a

Using Bagged Fertilizer

For most food plot applications where smaller acreages are involved, purchasing bagged fertilizer that is available at the local farm supply store is more practical. Select the blend or a combination of blends, that most closely meets the nutrient needs. Over-application or under-application of P or K will result in soil levels of the nutrient to be either built-up or lowered accordingly. Generally pre-packaged blends can be selected that will closely meet the nutrient needs of the crops to be grown. When comparing fertilizer blends, the analysis of N-P-K indicate the percent of these nutrients or the lbs. of each nutrient provided when spread at a rate of 100 lbs. per acre. An example of various fertilizer blends and the nutrient levels provided at a rate of 400 lbs/ acre.

Fertilizer Blend

X 400 lbs/acre






























* The percentage in the blend multiplied by the rate per hundred (4), equals the lbs. of each nutrient supplied per acre.

Applying fertilizer in two split applications of 200 lbs/ acre is much better than a single application of fertilizer. This also allows for using different blends to more closely meet the nutrient demand of the crops grown.


For more information call Dairyland Laboratories, Inc. at 608-323-2123 or contact us here.