NCDA Scaling Back Soil Testing

RALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Agronomic Services lab has scaled back its testing to a few core services, making home soil testing another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, homeowners may be able to use the recommendations from a previous year’s test to maintain their yards and gardens.

“At this time, the lab is accepting only diagnostic soil samples from agricultural clients,” said David Hardy, Soil Lab section chief. “Generally, soil testing is advised every 2 to 3 years. If you submitted soil samples to be tested in this timeframe, you can still use the recommendations from these past reports.”  Old soil test reports issued can be found at the Agronomic Services website,, where you will enter your last name in the search tool.

If lime was applied based on a report found at this website, it is unlikely that additional lime is needed for the upcoming growing season, Hardy said. Routine application of lime is never advised since soil pH may be raised too high.

Previous soil testing reports would have provided a phosphorus(P) index reported as a P-I and potassium (K) index reported as a K-I. From these soil test levels, a fertilizer recommendation comprised of a specific grade or analysis (example = 5-10-5) and rate per 1,000 square feet was provided.

Nitrogen (N) is not analyzed by the lab for soil tests but it is needed seasonally to promote plant growth. A nitrogen level is provided in the recommended grade or analysis of fertilizer; in this example, it is the first number of the grade.

“Using these same fertilizer recommendations will provide satisfactory results for homeowners wanting to fertilize this year,” Hardy said. Additionally, a homeowner’s guide to understanding fertilizer is found here. If you have questions about an old report or need further advice, please feel free to contact the lab at 919-733-2655.