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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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A successful summer starts now when it comes to growing needs

Whether you are looking for better crop production this year or just a greener lawn this summer, New Mexico State University and the Dona Ana County Extension Office would like to help.

Specialist Cindy Waddell, Senior Research Assistant Barbara Hunter and Research Assistant Sharon Smith test soil samples at NMSU's SWAT Lab. The laboratory receives and processes as many as 100 samples at a time. (NMSU Agricultural Communications photo by Darren Phillips)

The university's Soil, Water and Agricultural Testing Laboratory, better known as the SWAT Lab, will test soil samples from gardens, lawns and agricultural properties.

The lab will analyze the samples for both macro and micro nutrients including nitrogen as well as organic matter content, the amount of salt in the soil and other properties. The lab will then give recommendations to help homeowners and farmers better understand their fertilizer needs.

"Using the information to find the right fertilizer can save a property owner or farmer hundreds or even thousands of dollars," said John White, Dona Ana County Extension Agent.

White said commercial agriculture soils should be tested every year. Homeowners should test their soil every three to five years.

Testing the soil can also help homeowners save water. If grass doesn't seem to grow as well as it should, a homeowner may try watering more often. "If the problem is poor soil structure, over-watering can make things worse by leaching out what nutrients are still there," said White.

White recommends taking random samples in 10 to 15 parts of the property, at the depth of the roots you are concerned about - about six inches for grass, deeper for trees. These soil samples should then be mixed together to get a good, representative sample (about two pounds) and brought for testing or mailed inside a non-breakable, nonmetal container.

"We will give you an unbiased interpretation. We aren't trying to sell you fertilizer, so the information we give you won't be slanted in a certain direction," said White.

Samples can be taken or mailed to the SWAT lab on the NMSU campus, Box 30003, Dept. 3Q, PGEL Building, Las Cruces, NM 88003 or dropped off at the Dona Ana County Extension Office, 530 North Church St., Las Cruces, NM 88001.

The standard soil test is $17. A check must be included if the sample is mled. Prices and forms for other tests as well as other soil and water testing information can be found at the SWAT Lab Web site, http://swatlab.nmsu.edu.