Transcript


Chuck Denney-Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
A great way to grow healthy crops, a pretty garden or a nice lawn is to start indoors. This is UT Extension’s Soil, Plant and Pest Center at the Ellington Ag Center in Nashville – where little pieces of Tennessee come for analysis.

Debbie Joines (UT Soil, Plant & Pest Center)
“These are soil samples that we received from the post office today.”

Chuck Denney
On a spring day, Debbie Joines will get eight hundred soil samples – some from big row crop and pasture farmers, but also homeowners. The center did more than six thousand tests in March.

Debbie Joines
“You really don’t know what you need until you do a soil analysis. You can’t really tell by looking.”

Chuck Denney
Soil tests can be done any month of the year, but spring is always a good time to see what you’ve got to work with for the growing season. These tests measure the nutrients in the soil, and if you need to add fertilizers or chemicals to boost fertility.

Debbie Joines
“We have many different colors and types of soils.”

Chuck Denney
Soil content can vary greatly from region to region in Tennessee. Much of our soil is clay-based and acidic and needs lime to optimize nutrition. Using a simple kit from your local UT Extension office that costs a mere $7, you can have your soil tested.

Debbie Joines
'We look at PH, of course. We look at phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Phosphorus and potassium are primary nutrients, and those are the nutrients that plants cannot do without.”

Chuck Denney
With plants, there are instances when we may think we’re using the wrong seed or watering too little or too much. But it’s really an issue of imperfections in the soil.

Debbie Joines
“Well, with phosphorus you look at blooms. So your tomatoes may not produce as much fruit as they might otherwise. Also phosphorus is involved in root growth.”

Chuck Denney
This high tech instrument from Australia is called a dual PH meter. It mixes a liquid solution with soil for fast results.

Debbie Joines
“It allows us to process 120 samples in the time it would take a normal person to do one tray of forty.”

Chuck Denney
Joines says the lab is able to get results much quicker now than just a few years ago.

Debbie Joines
“Right now our turnaround time is a day.”

Chuck Denney
For plants, life starts from the ground up, so think of soil as your first key building block. Soil can never really pass the eye test, so sometimes you have to dig a little deeper.

END

NOTE: Tennessee residents can get a soil testing kit from their county UT Extension office. You can also go online to http://soilplantpest.utk.edu