Virginia Cooperative Extension is partnering with libraries in Shenandoah County to make soil fertility analysis better and more accessible to Shenandoah County farmers and homeowners. A soil probe (for collecting soil samples) and soil boxes and forms (for submitting samples) are now available at all libraries in in the Shenandoah County Library System, as well as the Woodstock Town library. This includes libraries in Fort Valley, Strasburg, Woodstock, Edinburg, Mount Jackson, New Market and Basye/Orkney Springs. The soil probe can be checked out just like a book or video.
“A good soil fertility analysis from a reputable laboratory is part of a good foundation to growing successful crops, pastures, lawns or gardens” says Bobby Clark, Senior Extension Agent and Unit Coordinator, in the Shenandoah County Extension Office. “We can use shovels or hand spades to take these samples but it is difficult to get a representative sample. The soil probes we have placed at the county libraries are specifically designed for this purpose. Small farmers and homeowners typically do not have access to these soil probes. Collaborating with libraries throughout the county will make this better for everyone.” We are placing soil sample boxes and homeowner instruction sheets at all of the libraries. We are also placing some extra soil boxes for farm soil samples (farmers can print instruction sheets off of the internet). The Virginia Tech Soil Testing Laboratory is providing free soil analysis to fulfill statewide legislative goals of ensuring farmers have ready access to good soil fertility analysis. Homeowner samples cost $10 per sample.
Information about how to collect a soil sample can be found at the Virginia Tech Soil Testing Laboratory (https://www.soiltest.vt.edu/). Additionally, Extension Master Gardener Volunteers can help answer homeowner questions about how to collect samples and can assist Extension Agents with interpreting results for home lawns and gardens. Master Gardeners can be reached by calling (540) 459-6140 or by e-mail via firstname.lastname@example.org. Farmers, whether big or small, can reach Extension Agents by calling (540) 459-6140 or by e-mailing Bobby Clark at email@example.com.
Good fertility analysis is also important for water quality protection. This applies to both home lawns/gardens and farmland. “We (Extension Agents) often see examples where homeowners accidentally apply double or triple the recommended rate of fertilizer. A double rate of fertilizer on one acre of home lawn might only cost $10 which is not a huge financial burden to many people. However, that double application across 100 lawns can collectively cause noteworthy negative impacts to water quality. Proper fertilization of farmland is both economically important and environmentally important. Farmers do not want to under apply fertilizer because yield suffers. If a farmer accidentally spends an additional $10 per acre the cost becomes significant when it is done across 25 or 100 acres.
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