Good food grows only on good soil

- Dr. William A. Albrecht


Did you know that a pH test from your soil could be the biggest clue in identifying if your soil has a problem? How can you as a grower solve that problem? Understanding your pH is an important key to solving your problems in soils because it directly affects nutrient availability. A comprehensive soil analysis from a reputable lab could be the biggest clue to identifying imbalances in your crops. Soil and water analysis reports are a grower’s best guide to an effective farm management strategy, and for the production of high yields and high quality crops.

Ideal Soil Structure Consist of

45% Minerals 25% Water 25% Air 5% Organic

45% Mineral Icon
25% Water Icon
5% Organic


Soil tests are important to growers for several reasons. One, soil tests can help optimize crop production, to protect the environment from contamination by runoff and leaching of excess fertilizers. Soil tests are essential for determining a soil’s fertility levels, which can help aid in the diagnosis of plant/crop problems. Lastly, testing can help you improve the nutritional balance of the soil resulting in an increase of crop yields. By knowing what nutritional deficiencies are really needed, growers can save money by reducing the production cost while achieving high crop yields.

Soil samples can generally be taken at any time of the year; however, there are some limitations that can hinder the results. Although samples can be taken anytime of the year, it is best practice to avoid taking samples where fertilizers have recently been applied. When taking a soil sample it must also be noted to avoid unusual areas; such as corners, edges of former fields or fence rows that are now in the field. Always remember to remove all residue before taking a soil sample core.

For best practices and consistent results over years growers should always sample during the same season and to have soil core samples pulled from the same locations every 3-5 years. For more accurate analysis it is also best to sample areas that differ separately.

When handling soil samples it is highly recommended to mix all area samples thoroughly this will allow for the the nutrients in the soil to best accurately be analyzed. If your samples are wet or moist make sure to air dry the soil before packaging the sample in a clean bucket or bag. For best practice it is best to avoid the use of galvanized or rubber buckets when collecting samples because samples may be contaminated with zinc.

Common tools used when collecting soil samples include a, Soil ProbeAuger, Spade Shovel, or a Hydraulic Probe. When collecting samples from tillage the top 6 inches are generally sampled. If the field has not been tilled a sample ranging from 3-4 inches deep are sufficient. Remember, it is important to always take core samples from a field at the same depth for consistency and accuracy over time.

Soil Probe Icon

Soil Probe

Auger Icon


Spade Shovel Icon

Spade Shovel

Hydraulic Probe

Hydraulic Probe


You cannot have an effective nutrition program without taking water quality into account! Irrigation water is just as important as the soil that you grow your crops in. 

Soils will tend to take on the characteristics of your irrigation water. Ideal irrigation water, with a pH less than 7, allows nutrients to remain in the soil solution so that they are available for your crops. Nutrients are only available to your crops when they are dissolved in the soil solution.

Not knowing how to fix the water issue can cause you to lose money. Call us to find out how we can help grow profitable crops.

Why get your soil sample and water analysis from us?

Quick Turnaround Time Icon

Quick Turnaround Time

After taking the necessary samples from the field or home garden expect results within 7-14 business days.

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Reputable Laboratory

Have your soil and water test performed by one of America’s oldest reputable facilities, Brookside Laboratories.

Precision & Consistency Icon

Precision and Consistency

Without navigation software we are able to precisely mark and sample soil from the same location year after year.

Easy to read Lab Report Icon

Easy to Read Lab Reports

We’ll provide the results in the and interpret the numbers into a simplified manner that is easy to read.  

pH is a measurement that allows us to see the acidity or Alkalinity of a solution. The pH scale runs from zero (0) having the most Acidic levels to fourteen (14) which has the highest Alkaline levels. Lower pH levels are preferred for certain ornamental plants while a neural pH is suitable for most other applications. The pH of soil is important because it directly impacts nutrient availability and beneficial microbial activity.

Acidity = When Soil is less than 7.

Alkalinity = When Soil is greater than 7.

Knowing your soil's pH can help determine if your field is too acidic or if the alkaline levels are too high; therefore, allowing you as a farmer to take proper action by amending the soil. 

Both soil pH and water test are essential and recommended for best results when looking into amending your soils. A pH alone is not proof of the water's alkalinity levels. Having both a soil and a water test can help determine missing nutrients in the soil which will help determine what materials are needed to balance your soil. 

Generally, water for irrigation should have pH levels between 5 and 7. Whereas, as those solutions that are at 7.0 pH are neutral on the pH scale. Waters with pH levels greater than 7.0 pH are known as, Basic in other words "Alkaline"; whereas, waters that fall below the 7.0 pH neutral levels are Acidic.

Testing and knowing the soil and water's pH levels can in time save you more money. Knowing your pH levels can allow you to identify soil necessities and directly find a solution to any problems your crops might be having. By addressing any nutrient deficiencies early in the crop's growth process and regular testing at least two to three times a year, you can save money by only getting the supplements needed and avoiding all the guessing work of what they might be needed to balance your soils. 

pH scale and plant nutrients

How Soil pH Affects Availability of Plant Nutrients

Soil pH is a measurement of soil acidity or alkalinity. pH is important because it can help indicate whether you have unhealthy or healthy soil. When soil pH levels are too high or too low it can lead to deficiency in nutrients, decline in microbial activity, decrease in crop yield and decline of soil health. Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur appears to be some of the least affected nutrients by the soils pH. View the chart above to see how the soil's pH affects the availability of Plant Nutrients, an optimal pH range for soil lands within 6.2 to 7.3 pH.

Check out the article by Vern Johnson, below which explains the importance of soil reports and how balancing your soils can be the difference for better results in your crops.


By: Vern Johnson | Western Region CCA Board of Directors, Arizona AG Solutions

All throughout the wine grape world and across the U.S., wine grapes are grown on a variety of soil types and climates. AVA regions have started to be defined in places like Arizona where vineyards are thriving on challenging aridisol soils that can be difficult for Vinifera to thrive in comparison to other longer-established regions. Understanding the parts of the soil report and irrigation water quality have become paramount in understanding how to attain the highest level of viable production and maintain the healthiest soils.

It’s not uncommon for the focus of soil reports to center on one item in that report or look at results in a way that can detract from how to get to a fertility program that will serve the budget, crop and soil health most efficiently.

There are five items to look at in order on a soil report to obtain balance and increased overall soil health. It is important when obtaining soil reports to ask the lab you are working with to compute the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and Base Saturation levels. I see a great deal of results from growers who come to my firm looking for recommendations that do not have CEC or base saturation levels defined. It’s impossible to make precise recommendations without these.

Irrigation Water Quality
Dryland-farmed vineyards don’t have this concern or need worry about the problems associated with irrigation water quality. However, if you are using irrigation to water, it’s important to know its quality and understand the pounds-per acre concepts of potentially problematic minerals being applied. Normally, water is seen as clear and refreshing; not knowing what is contained in water and what normal usage brings is no different than shoveling on bicarbonates, salts, sulfates, boron and chloride directly on the crop. This is an important place where we can find the sources of issues co straining production and limiting soil health and balance.

Cation Balance
Cation balance is the most important component of a soil report. Many worry most about pH, but the pH will balance itself out when the specific issues are addressed in the soil. Depending on CEC, one should see Ca levels at 60% to 70%, Mg at 10% to 20%, K at 2% to 5%, Na at 1% to 4% and H at 5% to 10%. It’s important to fall back and understand Mulders Chart, realizing the antagonistic and synergistic relationship between minerals in soils. Identifying imbalances in mineral nutrition can lead to soling mysteries behind cropping outcomes. Cation balance is not overly difficult in most cases, granted it may be a situation where there is a two-to-four-year strategy to attain the corrections needed.

Phosphate Levels
In the southwest, there has been a feeling developed that it is okay to accept lower P levels and production will not be hindered. In other regions, P levels are normally very adequate. These lower levels of 10 to 25 parts per million (ppm) are widely accepted. It has been observed that controlled vigor and balance are attained when soil P levels are found in the 50- to 100-ppm range. Further observations show that as that number approached 100 ppm, there is improved plant health, controlled vigor and improved juice numbers. Delivering P can be challenging, but there are good conventional and organic ways to apply. It most likely serves best to look toward a dry program and have a three-to-five-year goal of building soil P to a level that is acceptable.

Organic Matter
In the desert southwest, I often don’t see organic matter (OM) levels above 1%. Ideally, 4% to 10% is acceptable. In certain regions, this may be a difficult level to attain. Further, in some regions, there can be an issue finding a compost source to help build soil OM levels. Leaning on dry leonardite sources and/or liquid humic additions can be ways to help build soil OM levels. Further, cover cropping and getting that green biomass back into the soil is another means to help build a healthy soil. Increasing OM levels increases CEC, buffers pH and helps nutrient uptake in the soil profile.

Sulfur, Boron, Chlorine and EC
Grapes are not incredibly tolerant of salts and subsequently can be severely hindered by excess amounts. Keeping sulfur, boron and chloride levels to a minimum is very important. Looking at CEC and Ca base saturation levels, one can find the levels acceptable. Keeping boron 1/1000 of Ca or not exceeding 4 ppm is critical to avoid toxicity, with sulfur being 1/3 to 1/2. P is an acceptable range. Cl should be one to two times Na by weight.

Soil health does in fact hinge on mineral balance in the soil. Balancing rations between soil minerals is key to allowing for optimal soil health in vineyards. These are simple ways to break down a soil report and what is maybe influencing it. It is important to spend the time, money and all-around effort to address mineral balance and the items discussed here prior to seeking certain products targeted for soil health.

If you are using irrigation to water, it’s important to know its quality and understand the pounds-per-acre concepts of potentially problematic minerals being applied.

Cover cropping and getting that green biomass back into the soil is one way to help build a help build soil organic matter levels.


Vern Johnson. “Five Key Items to Look at On Your Vineyard Soil Report.” Progressive Crop Consultant, May/Jun. 2022; Vol.7 Issue3, pp.12-14.