Testing & Identification Services
We need 2 cups of dry soil to get accurate results. This can be brought to our office in any clean container or plastic bag. Routine soil tests are typically $8.00 (cash or check). The Daviess County Soil & Water Conservation District is currently offering FREE soil tests through the Daviess County Extension Service.
Why is soil testing important? Read the publication, Soil Testing: What It Is and What It Does (AGR-57), to learn more.
You will want a representative, random sample from the area you are interested in testing. Sample gardens, lawns, and landscaped areas separately. Collect cores randomly from each area. The area to sample for trees includes the soil below the width of the tree. For shrubs, flower beds, and gardens, sample just the soil where the plants are growing. You should sample problem areas and areas with shrubs, trees, or flower beds separately from other turf or lawn areas. Do not sample:
- compost areas,
- under the drip-line of trees, and
- close to driveways or streets.
Watch the video below or read the publications listed for more information. Call us if you have any questions.
The appropriate forms below will need to be completed with your sample(s).
Horticulture Sample (residential)
In order for insects to be properly identified and the best control recommendations to be made, the specimens must be in good condition and at least a minimum amount of collection information provided. Specimens that are incomplete, damaged, moldy, attached to tape, or squashed can only be identified to general groups. The better the condition of the specimen, the more precise identification and control recommendations. Place dead specimens in a secured container with an adequate amount of white vinegar for preservation. Once at our office, you will need to complete a collection information form about how the insect was causing a problem, where it was found, what it was feeding on, commercial versus home situation, and symptoms of damage is essential to identification. Providing us with preserved specimens and proper information enables us to provide appropriate management recommendations.
Submit soft-bodied insects (caterpillars, maggots, grubs, aphids, etc.) in vials that will not leak fluids using vinegar to prevent drying and decaying. White vinegar from a grocery store will work. You may use any clean container that will not leak to bring the specimen to our office. Do not use other liquids to preserve the insects. While we used alcohol in the past, the Department of Transportation is now strictly regulating the shipment of alcohol such that we cannot ship specimens for identification in alcohol.
Moth and butterfly specimens need to be sent as dry specimens. You may use any dry, clean container that will not smash the specimen to bring it to our office. Scale insects attached to plant material can also be shipped dry.
Include as many specimens as possible. Several dozen specimens of a small insect are not too many.
Many insects can be identified with a good quality photo. This saves time and money for shipping. But a blurry out of focus or poorly lit photo may result in lack of a proper identification. Here are some tips that can be used to improve photos sent for identification.
- Use the macro mode on your camera to put more of the close-up photo in the field of focus. The macro mode is often represented by a flower symbol. This increase the photo’s depth of field of focus.
- Be sure the specimen is in focus. With many cameras on cell phones, simply touching the screen where the insect is will focus the camera on that subject. You can check the focus by reviewing the photo after it is taken by zooming in on the specimen. If it is out of focus, take another photo. With point-and-shoot cameras, you may need to press the shutter button halfway down to engage the autofocus.
- Use good lighting. Dark photos make identification more difficult. Use flashes, lamps, or other types of lighting to remove shadows on the subject.
- Try to fill the frame with the specimen. Get the camera as close to the specimen as possible while maintaining sharp focus.
- Photograph the specimen from different angles. This will help us make an identification as some characteristics can be seen from certain angles. Top and bottom shots are very helpful! Take pictures of specimens that may be in different stages.
- Include a size reference. Use a ruler or coin next to the specimen to provide a helpful scale to judge size.
- Photograph the damage or situation if appropriate.
- Save the specimen. Not all specimens can be identified by photos, we may need you to send in the specimen.
Samples from humans, companion animals, and/or livestock
SAMPLES FROM HUMANS, COMPANION ANIMALS, AND/OR LIVESTOCK ARE NOT ACCEPTED. THIS INCLUDES:
- Samples of and/or containing body fluids (urine, blood, etc.), tissues (scabs, skin, etc.), or waste suspected of being infested.
- Live specimens. Place dead specimens in a secured container with an adequate amount of white vinegar for preservation.
Weed / Plant Identification
Collect as much of the plant as possible (roots, leaves, stems, flowers, etc.).
- add water or wrap the sample in a damp towel
- expose samples to extreme heat or cold (such as leaving them inside a vehicle) and collect samples early in the week to avoid holding them over the weekend
Once samples have been collected properly, deliver them to our office as soon after collection as possible. Growers should not mail samples directly to the laboratory. Be prepared to complete a Weed Identification Form with the information gathered from the site. In some cases, one of our Extension Agents can identify the plant. If necessary, we will ship samples to the Weed Science Herbarium.
Hay / Forage Testing
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) continues to offer a forage testing service, which provides nutritional value information. This service is eligible for Kentucky producers only. If you grow hay in Kentucky or buy hay and live in Kentucky, you qualify for this service. They do not test corn silage. More information on the program can be found here.
Forage Sample Analysis Request Form
Please note that payment to the KDA must be submitted with samples. Make check or money order payable to "Kentucky State Treasurer". The cost is $10.00 per sample. Do not send cash.
- When possible (regardless of the container size), use an appropriate probe to sample seed.
- Hand sampling is acceptable if the result is representative of the lot.
- Sub-samples of bulk seed should be taken in equal portions at several evenly distributed locations in the container.
- For bagged seed, a minimum of 5 bags plus 10% of the bags in the lot (not to exceed 30 bags) should be sampled.
Seed tests available at the University of Kentucky can be found here.
Animal Waste Testing
Animal wastes are tested to determine nutrient contents to allow for proper land application.
Your report will show the amount of Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Zinc. If solid waste is submitted moisture content will be included.
For more information on livestock waste sampling and testing, read this publication.
Plant Disease Diagnosis
A fresh, representative sample is critical for diagnosis. Follow these general guidelines:
- Collect whole plant samples when possible, including roots.
- Always dig plants to keep root systems intact and soil in place around the roots. Small roots are often needed for diagnosis and they may be left behind if plants are pulled rather than dug.
- If only part of a plant is collected, such as detached leaves or branches, describe the symptoms and location of affected parts clearly (e.g., young vs. older leaves, one side of plant, etc.).
- Choose several plants showing a range of symptoms, especially those in the early stages of the problem. Diagnosis may not be possible if plants are completely dead.
- Include pictures of the problem area whenever possible.
- Do not expose samples to extreme heat or cold (such as leaving them inside a vehicle) and collect samples early in the week to avoid holding them over the weekend.
Once samples have been collected properly, deliver them to our office as soon after collection as possible. Growers should not mail samples directly to the Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. Be prepared to complete a Plant Disease Identification Form with the information gathered from the site. In some cases, one of our Extension Agents can diagnose the problem on site. If necessary, we will ship samples to the Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.
Information about the plant, planting site, and symptoms can be as important as the physical plant material collected. Key questions to ask include:
- What kind of plant is it? Indicate the variety, cultivar, or whether the plant is a hybrid. If plant’s identity is unknown, sending a healthy plant (or picture of a healthy plant) for comparison may be helpful.
- What is the age of the plant or the planting date? Be as specific as possible with annual crops. A general time frame (e.g., month and year) is often sufficient for trees and shrubs, but do indicate whether the plant has been recently transplanted or is well-established.
- What has been done to care for the crop/plant? Include information on tillage, irrigation, fertilizer and pesticides, mulches, and other cultural practices.
- What is the weather history (e.g., drought, flood, hail, lightning, frost)? Also note any site disturbances, such as nearby construction, utility work, etc.
- What are the symptoms? Describe the problem. Take time to examine the entire plant and determine the specific location of symptoms on the plant. Note anything unusual that may not be visible on the physical sample. For example, check tree trunks for wounds or for mechanical injuries. Are there any mushrooms or other fungal fruiting bodies associated with tree trunk or surface roots?
- When did symptoms first appear? Did they appear suddenly or progress (worsen) gradually?
- Where are the affected plants? Indicate the type of production system (e.g., field, greenhouse, landscape, etc.). Also note the terrain involved, such as whether the problem is in a low wet area, on a dry slope, etc.
- How much of the crop/plant is affected? Is a single plant showing symptoms, or are scattered plants, group(s) of plants or the entire planting affected? Are plants of different types showing the same symptoms? Look for any patterns.
Soilless Media Test
The soilless media test is intended for use with growth media appropriate for greenhouse or nursery crop production in containers or raised benches with limited volume. This test is not appropriate for field soil. Field soil is typically not included in growth media for these systems, nor is it recommended. If you wish to test field soil, with or without organic amendments, request a routine soil test at our office.
Parameters measured in the soilless media test include pH, soluble salts (electrical conductivity), water-soluble nitrate-N, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, boron, iron, manganese, copper, and zinc using a saturated media extract procedure. Samples may be taken from a current crop or from bulk media before use.
Growth media samples should be representative of the bed or bench of a given crop. A sampling strategy should consider crop species, planting time, container size, and environmental parameters such as shading, location in a greenhouse or nursery bed, etc. Ideally, a sample should be taken from plants representing each of the possible variations in these factors. However, circumstances may not allow crop management to differ with each of these variations. Therefore, it is best to select several subsamples from plants that will be managed as a block and submit a
composite sample. Samples may be taken from bulk media before the crop is planted to determine beginning status.
Collect 6 to 8 subsamples from several locations in beds or from 6 to 8 representative containers in a block. Each of these subsamples should include the growth medium from the whole root zone from the surface to the bottom of the raised bed or container. This is necessary because the soluble salts and other parameters can differ with depth in a container or bed. Thoroughly mix the subsamples together to create a pooled sample and take two pints of the mixture as your sample. Two pints will fill two sample bags obtained from our office. Mark the sample with an owner ID of your choosing.
Sampling time should also be considered relative to recent management activities or environmental events such as rainfall. If a crop is receiving routine liquid fertilization, it is generally accepted to wait four to six hours after the application before sampling.
Water and Nutrient Solution Testing
Each sample will be analyzed for: pH, conductivity, alkalinity, nitrate-N, phosphorus,
potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, and manganese.
A report from the UK Soil Laboratory in the Division of Regulatory Services will be sent
electronically to our office. The report will contain the results of the analyses and information from the sample submission form. The report, along with recommendations, will be sent to the grower who submitted the sample.
You may pick up a sample bottom from our office prior to collecting the sample. If you choose to use your own bottle, the container must be clean and free of any contamination. Samples should be delivered to our office as soon as possible. If samples must be held, store them in a refrigerator but do not freeze.
For source water samples:
Open the tap and allow it to run for five minutes prior to sampling. Place opened bottle under the stream until it is full. Pour out enough to leave ½ inch of air space. Replace and tighten the cap. If you are submitting more than one sample, mark each sample with an owner ID.
For nutrient solution samples:
Float Beds: Submerge capped bottle to a depth of 3 inches, then open the bottle and allow it to fill. Pour out enough to leave ½ inch of air space. Replace and tighten the cap. If you are submitting more than one sample, mark each sample with an owner ID.
Overhead or low-pressure systems: Sample as described above for source water at the point far enough below the fertilizer injector to allow for complete mixing.
Soybean Cyst Nematode Testing
Information on Soybean Cyst Nematode, Sampling, Management and more can be found on the UK Plant Pathology Website here.
• Use a soil probe to collect soil 6 to 8 inches deep from at least 20 locations within the sampling area (i.e. 20 sub-samples).
• Follow a “zig-zag” pattern when sampling.
• If you are sampling a field that has most recently been in soybean, collect the soil cores from the soybean root zone area.
• Once the sub-samples have been collected, mix the contents in a bucket and immediately place at least one pint in a soil testing sample bag or in a double-plastic bag and then seal the bag.
• Mark the field name / sample number on the bag.
• Protect the sample from extreme heat. If not sending for analysis immediately, refrigerate sample until sending for analysis. Do not freeze sample.
• Use the special Kentucky Soybean Board sample submission form for the free soybean cyst nematode samples
• Send samples to: University of Illinois Plant Clinic, S-417 Turner Hall, 1102 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, IL 61801. Tel: 217-333-0519.
Presidedress Nitrogren Testing
Soil should be sampled when the corn is about 6 inches high with between 2 and 4 leaf collars showing (V2-V4). Samples should not be taken later since time is required for the sample to be tested by the lab for sidedressing to occur no later than the V6 stage. Samples may be taken somewhat earlier when corn has 1 leaf collar (V1) if early sidedressing is anticipated. Take soil cores to a 12-inch depth. This is deeper than “routine” soil samples which are taken from 4 to 6 inches deep. The deeper depth is required because nitrate is a soluble nutrient that moves deeper into the soil profile. If the soil probe tip is not long enough to collect a 12-inch core, you will have to probe the soil twice at each point in order to collect the 12-inch sample. Randomly walk through the field collecting about 20 soil cores. Minimize the field area being sampled to about 10 to 20 acres. Because of the variability of soil N availability and the economic importance of N nutrition to corn, it is not wise to collect a sample representing a large area.
It is critical to dry the sample before sending it to a laboratory. The soil needs to be dried because N can undergo biological transformations in a moist sample, causing a laboratory result that is not indicative of field soil conditions. Thoroughly mix each 20-core composite sample from the 10 to 20-acre field. Keep about a pint of the soil and completely air-dry the soil immediately after sampling. To dry the sample quickly, place the soil on a paper plate in front of a gently blowing fan. Do not place the sample in a plastic bag. The soil test laboratory may not perform a PSNT on samples received moist because of the uncertainty in the results.
The PSNT can be used on fields where manure or fertilizers were broadcast applied before planting. The PSNT is not recommended in fields with banded/injected N applications because it is difficult to properly sample such fields and adequately predict N availability.
Send the sample to a laboratory that will perform the PSNT test. The University of Kentucky soil test laboratory at Princeton can perform this test. Submit the sample to a local county extension office and they will send the sample to the laboratory for testing.