Soil Testing on Firsthand Foods beef cattle operation

Soil Testing Improves Pasture Management

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This time of year we find many of our beef farmers soil testing for pH and the key nutrients especially phosphorous and potassium. Why now? Well, mostly it’s because between April and November, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provides soil testing free of charge. Pretty cool!

Why is soil testing important? Our Beef Network Coordinator, Dean Askew explains that maintaining the right pH in soils is critical to a plant’s ability to access nutrients in the soil. Nutrients are key to plant growth and maintaining a healthy stand of grass and other forages for grazing animals. A farmer can keep adding fertilizer but if the pH is off, it won’t make a difference and is just a wasted expense and potential environmental pollutant.

Beef cattle raised on pasture naturally add nutrients to the soil through their manure. But it’s not enough for most pastures in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Many of our farmers are raising cattle on land that started out depleted of nutrients, usually from years of raising extractive crops like tobacco. Soil testing is one of many tools our farmers use to improve soil quality and livestock management.