Master Gardener volunteer conducts a pH soil test on a soil sample
Image by Sandy Repp

A Master Gardener volunteer tests soil pH.

Soil Testing & Diagnostic Services

Why Test Soil?

A soil test will tell you what nutrients are in your soil and what you may need to add (in the form of fertilizer) for successful crop growth. Plants need nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (macronutrients) as well as micronutrients to grow. Deficiency or excess of these elements will impact the health and productivity of plants. In addition, the pH (acid/alkaline level) of your soil has an impact on how much of your soil's nutrients your plants will be able to use.

pH Testing

A pH test measures the acid/alkaline level of your soil. On the pH scale, 7.0 is considered neutral; lower numbers indicate acidic soil, while higher numbers indicate that the soil is alkaline. Most plants prefer a pH of 6.5-7. pH levels influence nutrient availability, with most nutrients being available to plants when the pH is in this range (6.5-7.0). If soil is too alkaline or too acidic, certain nutrients may be limited. To change soil pH to the desirable range, you will either add lime if the soil is too acidic or sulfur if the soil is too alkaline. With your pH test result, we will let you know what amount of lime or sulfur is needed if any. 

Fill out this online: pH Submission Form  

CCE-Oneida Horticulture Program in Oriskany will perform a pH test on soil samples for a fee of $2/sample. See "How to take a soil sample", and bring 1/4 cup of your combined samples for testing. 

Do-it-yourself Cornell pH Test Kits are also sold at our Oriskany, NY location.   Note: the pH kit cannot be used accurately by a color-blind person. (prices do not include postage to mail)

  • Standard Range Kit (5.0-7.2), $20
  • pH solution bottle refills, $3 per bottle

Nutrient Analysis for Farmers and Homeowners

Dairy-One Soils Laboratory (800) 344-2697 x 2179

A Standard soil nutrient test recommends how to balance the nutrients in your soils.   Forms are available for the homeowner, as well as, for growers of commercial turf, commercial vegetables, commercial fruit, and field crops (pasture, hay, annual crops). The test measures soil pH, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and micronutrients including organic matter. You must send 2 cups of dry soil per sample with the correct form and a check made out to "Dairy One." Send to Dairy-One 730 Warren Rd., Ithaca. Expect at least one week for test results to be returned. (May be longer during peak test times.)

Download and print the appropriate FORM  from the Dairy-One website to include with your soil samples.  Make sure to put the code for the type of crop you are growing in the information (NOTE: For testing home garden soils, download and print Soil Laboratory Form H.  All submissions should include 2 cups dry soil, and a check made out to Dairy-One (see form for pricing).   Place the completed form, soil and check in a separate small box, and ship to their lab in Ithaca.

Additional tests (available through Dairy-One)

  • Soluble Salts
  • No-till pH
  • Nitrate
  • Boron

State-specific Dairy-One packages are targeted to customer needs. Due to the diversity of soils in North America, there are many different soil tests used to characterize the nutrient content of soils.

Each test was developed based on the chemistry of the soils and crop response in the region where the test will be used. Dairy-One offers soil test packages and nutrient guidelines to meet the diverse needs of commercial crop producers and homeowners here in the Northeast. * New York customers also have the option of a Dairy-One analysis with Cornell recommendations.

Last updated March 1, 2024