Autumn is an ideal time to soil sample, so get organised if your fields are due to be sampled.

It is important to remember that fertiliser prices have been rising in 2021 and a soil sample could be a good investment to ensure you are only using the nutrients that are needed.

Your farm should be sampled every four years and more regularly where indices are low.

Basic test

A basic soil test should look at soil pH, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) levels, while soil organic matter is another good indicator of soil health.

If your soil pH, P and K are in order, then it is worth looking at other elements such as magnesium and manganese.

Some labs or service providers will take soil samples for you, but if you are taking the soil samples yourself, take them in a W pattern across the area and avoid patches where farmyard manure was tipped up or where the soil was unusually affected, for example, in front of the gateway or beside a hedge.


The sample should be taken to 10cm and approximately 20 to 30 soil cores are needed for one sample.

Soil samples should cover no more than an area of 4ha, but if areas vary, the samples should be made smaller.

It is often better to sample on a field-by-field basis and, in large fields, split the field into different sections.

When sampling in autumn, it is important to remember that you should not sample land where lime, P or K was spread in the last three to six months.

Key things to remember

  • Sample to be taken in a W pattern.
  • Sample should not cover an area greater than 4ha.
  • Avoid unusual areas in fields.
  • Sample to 10cm.
  • Take 20 to 30 soil cores per sample.
  • Do not soil sample on land that has received lime, P or K in the past three to six months.