There are soil doctors out there and we send samples to see how our wonderful soil is doing. Our sample go t0 A & L Labs in Modesto. They test the soil for all sorts of important nutrients and make recommendations knowing that we use the soil for growing vegetables.
These sample results will also go to the USDA who are looking at how our growing practices are affecting nutrient levels. They are particularly interested in how the chickens have influenced the soil. This is part of a grant that we are getting for turning the back forty, owned by the Erwin Family in Dixon, organic. We have the organic certification and now we just have to get the soil tests to finish up the program.
Taking soil tests is relatively easy. The tool in the picture cuts a core into the soil. Depending on what part of the soil profile you want to test you cut what you need from the core into a ziploc bag. The lab needs about a pound of soil to test. The correct way to take the samples is to walk in a 'W' path down the field making sure that you get a representative sample. Our soil is very uniform so multiple samples in the same area are not needed. If there were a problem area then you take a separate sample from there. We are looking at the same field that has not had chickens and pasture, another that has and one that has grow a wheat crop since the chickens left.
Each test costs us $36 and takes about a week until we get the results emailed to us.... Nigel