From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
Like many businesses, our Agronomic Services Lab, which processes soil samples, has a peak season. That season is now.
In late fall and into the winter months, soil samples pour into the lab to be tested. This fall has been busier than normal. In fact, in November our lab processed 12 percent more samples than for the same time period in 2009.
Stacks of gray cardboard sample boxes line the walls, waiting their turn to be processed. The lab results from those tests will ultimately provide farmers and homeowners with fertilizer and lime recommendations for the upcoming growing season. This is a valuable service as it helps farmers save money by using only the amount of fertilizer needed for optimal growth, and it protects the environment by keeping excess nutrients from being applied unnecessarily.
With so many samples coming into the lab at once, residents often experience delays this time of year in getting test results. At press time, the average turnaround time for processing samples was five to six weeks.
This month, the laboratory is bringing a new piece of equipment online to help reduce the wait time. This equipment is expected to boost the lab's processing capacity to more than 3,200 soil samples a day. That's about 400 more samples per day from its current capacity. I expect this will be welcomed news for many people who have sent in samples.
Lime and fertilizer recommendations are critical for planning purposes, but growers still have time to use the testing services before needing to prep fields for the 2011 crop season.
I am proud of the soil testing services we provide, but I am also proud that the information farmers receive from these tests are crop- and area- specific and that our regional agronomists are available to advise and help growers with these recommendations.
To contact an agronomist for your area, go to www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/rahome.htm or call (919) 733-2655.