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Soil Testing

University of Minnesota - Soil Testing Laboratory

Soil health initiatives are gaining ground across Minnesota. Soil health is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as "the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans." Traditional theories of soil management focused on physical and chemical features of soil and emphasized addition of nutrients to sustain crop yields. There is now a growing awareness of the role that soil biology plays in sustaining crop productivity and supporting healthy ecosystems. "Soil livestock" - the soil bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, earthworms, and other animals the live in or move through the soil -- are critical to soil health. They can support decomposition and nutrient cycling, leading to healthy plant growth, control soil erosion, improve water availability, and protect crops from pests and diseases.

The basic principles of soil health, as detailed in the linked resources below, are: 
  • Minimize soil disturbance. Tillage, overgrazing, or misapplication of farm inputs can result in bare or compacted soil, disrupted soil habitat, increased soil temperature, and increased runoff and erosion.
  • Keep the soil covered as much as possible. Living plants and mulch buffer the soil from weather extremes.
  • Maximize plant diversity. Crop rotations and cover crops support diverse soil microorganisms and the soil food web.
  • Keep living roots in the soil throughout the year. The soil/root interface, or rhizosphere, is where the most intense microbial activity takes place, feeding soil microbes and the soil food web.
  • Integrate livestock where possible. Controlled grazing can improve soil health through hoof action, insect consumption, gleaning following harvest, and direct application of manure where feasible.
Text from BWSR. 

The following laboratories, arranged by state or province, are certified for soil testing by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. To find out more information about the laboratory, including the types of tests it is certified to run, click on the laboratory's name. For best results, select a lab that is endorsed for the types of tests you want analyzed.

For more information: Certified soil testing laboratories