As we head into cooler weather, fall is the best time to amend your lawns, especially fescue lawns and landscape areas, with lime and fertilizer and to start fall vegetable gardens.
Homeowners, gardeners, community gardeners, golf course superintendents, and turf consultants are encouraged to submit samples now to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Agronomic Services soil test to ensure faster turnaround time on results and avoid peak-season testing fees.
“Soil test results completed this year are good for the next two to three years. So, if you have not tested your soil in a while, now is a good time to consider submitting soil samples,” said Jagathi Kamalakanthan, soil lab agronomist. “Soil testing is free except during the peak laboratory season, which starts Dec. 1 and runs through March 31, 2024.”
Samples must physically arrive on the Agronomic Services’ loading dock Nov. 30 or earlier to avoid being charged a peak-season fee. Date of shipping, delivery to a local Cooperative Extension Center, or postmarking is not considered when determining the assessment of peak-season fees.
“This year the Agronomic Services Division is renewing its efforts to improve operational efficiency and optimize our customer service. To help us in this mission, we are asking that growers pay particular attention to the submission process,” Kamalakanthan said. “Small details really matter when you consider that the Soil Testing Lab processes about 300,000 samples annually.”
New this year. Soil samples submitted without adequate grower, consultant, and/or sample information will not proceed through the lab but will be set aside. This information is essential to associate samples with the correct existing client account or to establish a new unique client account. Samples will be held for at least five days, and an attempt will be made to obtain the missing information. Due to limited storage space, samples cannot be held indefinitely.
To avoid samples ending up in the “holding area,” simply follow the instructions listed below. In doing so, you will help the Soil Testing Lab be more efficient, and in turn, avoid unnecessary delays in sample processing.
1. Only use soil sample boxes provided by NCDA&CS. Soil sample boxes and submission forms are provided at local county Cooperative Extension Centers and at the Agronomic Services Division, 4300 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh, NC 27607. Fill the soil box to the red line found on the outside of the box. Required information on the box includes the client’s name, address, and sample ID.
2. With your samples, send a completely filled homeowner soil submission form, including a crop code for plant-specific recommendations; the list of codes is found on the second page of the sample submission form. Since soil test results are emailed to clients, it is extremely important that a valid email address is provided. Additionally, providing a current phone number is highly encouraged as it is helpful for faster contact if there is an issue with soil sample submission. For convenience, a fillable soil submission form for routine homeowner samples can be found at https://www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/documents/HOMEOWNER%20SOIL%20SAMPLE%20SUBMISSION%20SHEET%20AD15.pdf.
3. Make sure that information listed on your soil submission form matches what is on your sample boxes.
4. Save a copy/photo of your sample submission form for your records.
5. Ensure that sample boxes are packed securely inside a sturdy shipper to avoid damage during transport. Do not use padded mailing envelopes. For faster delivery, private carriers such as UPS or FedEx deliver directly to the Agronomic building rather than an off-site mail center that USPS is required to use. Some Cooperative County Extension offices collect samples from homeowners for delivery to the division; clients are encouraged to make sure that delivery meets their intended expectations and needs.
6. If you have access to a computer and printer, use the online data entry feature on PALS (https://www.ncagr.gov/
Clients are encouraged to look at current turnaround time that estimates the time for results. This changes frequently during the year. Go to https://www.ncagr.gov/
Following these guidelines will help the Agronomic Services soil lab deliver the best and most efficient services to customers. Contact the Agronomic Services Division at 919-664-1600 with any questions.