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How To Analyse Soil Samples: A Guide For Soil Testing

Dr Ahsanur Rahman, PHD

About the Author

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Dr Ahsanur Rahman, PhD, is a Bangladeshi forest researcher who has worked extensively on the ecology and management of the country's forests. He has authored or co-authored over 100 scientific papers and is widely recognized as an expert on the subject. Dr Rahman is currently working as a senior Research Officer at, Forest Protection Division (Forest Pathology), Bangladesh Forest Research Institute, Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Name: Dr Ahsanur Rahman, PHD

Email: [email protected]

In order to determine what nutrients are in the soil and how much of those nutrients are present, a soil sample must be collected and then analysed. The first step is to take a small shovel and dig up about a two-inch deep slice of soil from several different locations within the area that will be planted. These samples should then be placed in a clean bucket.

Once all of the samples have been collected, they can then be taken to a lab for analysis or tested at home with a soil test kit.

  • Obtain a soil sample from the desired location
  • Break up the soil sample and remove any large pieces of debris
  • Place the soil sample into a container filled with water
  • Stir the mixture and allow it to settle for several hours
  • Observe the layers of sediment that have formed and record your findings
  • Analyse the data to determine the composition of the soil sample
How to Analyse Soil Samples


How Do You Take Soil Samples for Soil Analysis?

To take a soil sample for analysis, you will need to obtain a soil sampling kit from your local cooperative extension office or agricultural store. The kit will contain instructions on collecting the samples and submitting them for testing. Generally, you will need to collect several samples from different areas of your property and mix them together before submitting them.

What are the Methods of Soil Analysis?

There are many methods of soil analysis, each providing different information about the soil. The most common method is a physical analysis, which includes looking at the soil’s color, texture, and structure. A chemical analysis can provide information on the soil’s pH, nutrients, and contaminants.

A biological analysis can reveal the types of organisms present in the soil.

soil testing methods

What are 2 Tests Used to Analyze Soil?

The two main tests used to analyze soil are the Atterberg limits and the particle-size analysis. The Atterberg limits test is used to determine the consistency of a soil, which is important for engineering purposes. This test measures the moisture content at which a soil changes state.

For example, clayey soil will have a high plasticity index, meaning it will be very sticky and firm when wet. The Atterberg limits can be determined by measuring the water content at which these changes occur. The particle-size analysis is used to determine the proportions of different-sized particles in a sample of soil.

This information is important for understanding how soil will behave under different conditions, such as its permeability or ability to filter water. Particle-size analysis can be done using sieves or sedimentation tubes.

What Does a Soil Test Measure?

A soil test measures several key factors that affect plant growth, including:

  1. Nutrient Content – Soil tests measure the levels of essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients are vital for plant growth and must be present in the right proportions for optimal health.
  2. pH Level – pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of your soil, and it is an important factor in determining the availability of nutrients to your plants. Most plants prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0.
  3. Organic Matter – Organic matter is the decomposed material from plants and animals that provides a source of nutrients for your plants. Soil tests measure the level of organic matter in your soil and its impact on nutrient availability.

How to Test Your Soil

Testing your soil is a relatively simple process that can be done at home or by a professional lab. Here are the steps to follow to test your soil:

  1. Collect a Soil Sample – Take several soil samples from different parts of your garden or farm, avoiding any areas that may have been contaminated by chemicals or other pollutants. Mix the soil samples together to form a composite sample.
  2. Prepare the Sample – Remove any visible debris, such as rocks, roots, or leaves, from the soil sample. Then, air-dry the sample and break up any clumps.
  3. Submit the Sample – Submit the prepared soil sample to a professional lab or use a home soil testing kit. Be sure to follow the instructions from your testing kit or the lab to ensure accurate results.

How to Interpret Soil Test Results

Once the soil test results are available, you can use them to determine the health of your soil and make informed decisions about what, if any, amendments to make. The results will typically include a report of your soil’s nutrient levels, pH level, and organic matter content, along with recommendations for any necessary adjustments.

Soil Sample Analysis Methods

A soil sample analysis is a process in which a soil sample’s physical and chemical properties are determined. The most common methods for analyzing soil samples are particle-size analysis, pH testing, and nutrient testing. These methods are used to determine soil suitability for agricultural or other purposes.

Particle-size analysis determines a soil sample’s sand, silt, and clay proportions. This information is used to classify soils and to understand their physical properties. pH testing measures the acidity or alkalinity of a soil sample.

Nutrient testing measures nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels in a soil sample. This information is used to understand the fertility of a soil. Soil samples can be analyzed using other methods as well, such as X-ray diffraction or electron microscopy.

However, these methods are less commonly used due to their expense and complexity.

Agricultural Soil Testing Methods

There are many different ways to test the soil in an agricultural setting. The most common methods are chemical analysis, physical analysis, and biological analysis. Chemical analysis is used to determine the nutrient content of the soil.

This information is important for determining what crops will grow best in the soil and how much fertilizer needs to be added. Chemical analyses can also be used to detect contaminants in the soil. A physical analysis is used to determine the texture of the soil.

This information is important for determining how well water will drain through the soil and how easy it will be for roots to penetrate it. Physical analyses can also be used to measure the soil’s compaction and other physical properties. The biological analysis is used to determine the presence and activity of microorganisms in the soil.

This information is important for determining how healthy the soil is and whether it contains any pathogens that could harm plants or animals. Biological analyses can also be used to monitor changes in microbial populations over time.


Soil testing is a critical aspect of soil management that should not be overlooked. By understanding the nutrient content, pH level, and organic matter content of your soil, you can make informed decisions about what, if any, amendments to make, leading to a healthier and more productive garden, farm, or lawn. Regular soil testing helps you maintain optimal soil health, resulting in stronger, more vibrant plants that are better equipped to resist disease and pests.

So, now that you understand the importance of soil testing, why not go ahead and test your soil today? Your plants will thank you for it!

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