Saturday, August 29, 2015

Soil Fertility

A couple weeks ago I sent soil samples from the vegetable garden, the orchard, the lower pasture and the hilly pastures to the Penn State Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory. The results were somewhat as I expected and a little surprising in other areas.
This is the report for the vegetable garden:
Apparently the soil is perfect in the garden. All they recommend is an application of a 10-10-10 fertilizer. I think I'll stick with compost and composted manure.

The orchard is almost the opposite of the vegetable garden; every value is below optimum. The pastures were not too bad. They just need lime, only 6,000 pounds! I've been reading up on liming pastures and found out you shouldn't put that much lime down at once. Usually half is spread one year then the other half the next year. That's great, I only need to spread 3,000 pounds now. That's only 150-50 pound bags. Most farmers have a truck come in and spread lime and it's not expensive. But I don't think a truck could get into my pastures with all the fences, gates and hills.  We are still figuring out the best way to do this but we need to come up with something soon since the lime should be spread before the reseeding.

The most surprising result though was the selenium. I paid extra to check selenium levels and they are more than double the top of normal for this area. I guess I don't need to worry about selenium deficiency in my sheep. The risk of selenium toxicity is something I need to think about. Chronic toxicity may take a while to show any symptoms but so far the sheep are doing fine on the pasture and have no signs of selenium toxicity. I can send a whole blood sample to the lab for selenium level for $25 or I can send a liver sample and get results for calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc for $34. Since I will be butchering a couple of rams soon I think the liver sample is the way to go. I need to know if the selenium is just in the soil or if it is being taken up by the plants and eaten by the sheep.


  1. Wow, your garden is above optimum in everything mine lacks! Interesting about the selenium; so few places seem to have enough let alone an abundance. The liver sample testing is an excellent idea. I should look into that for the next time we process goats. Where are you sending it? To your state lab?

  2. Yes, the state lab. It's really a bargain at that price. And you get so much useful information. I think I figured out why that pasture has such a high selenium level. Last year I pastured chickens there with electric netting. They always make such a mess with their feed and I just checked the label and it has selenium.

  3. Wow, I've never heard of too much selenium in soil. You definitely "ain't from around here" ;-).