Soil infertility is a key constraint to improving crop production for small-scale farmers. Soils throughout Canadian Foodgrains Bank members’ program areas are degraded and deficient in nutrients and organic matter. Soil testing measures the soil’s health and nutrient holding capacity and provides a measure of nutrient status and health. It also serves as a basis for crop and land management decisions. Soil testing has been advocated by technical specialists, government extension agents and through radio messaging. As a result, there is a growing demand from farmers and project partners for information on soil testing strategies and services. Farmers want specific guidance on which fertility inputs are best for their fields, and how much they should apply.
Given the wide range of available soil testing options, it is important to identify which tests are most useful for a given project, and for what reason. Some tests are helpful in developing recommendations for how farmers manage crops. Other tests may not help with crop management decisions, but are useful in training farmers to think about soil health. Still others are helpful in monitoring and evaluation of the effects of a project on soil nutrients and soil health. This guide is designed to help farmers and partners decide what soil tests are most important and cost-effective for their context.