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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Test kit simplifies soil sampling


A pre-packaged test kit developed by researchers at the University of Florida is designed to make taking, submitting and getting results on soil samples easy for homeowners, lawn and landscape operators and maybe even sports turf managers. One day, such a kit might also help make life easier for golf course superintendents.

The UF/IFAS Soil Test Kit Powered by SoilKit was developed in cooperation with AgriTech Corp. of Foley, Alabama. For $29.95 per kit, users get everything they need to properly take and submit a soil test, including a prepaid shipping label, soil bag and a QR code to an instruction video. The cost also includes results and recommendations from a lab in Alabama.

Within one or two days of receipt, users will receive an email with a link to results. Kits are available at extension offices in Florida or online.

What seems like a simple concept actually was five years in the making.

"We started working on this in 2017," said Bryan Unruh, Ph.D, associate professor with the University of Florida.

"We are in the crawl, walk, run stage."

The test was developed primarily with the residential lawn market in mind. Although it also can be used on sports fields, the kit is probably not a realistic fit for the golf market. At least not yet.

Athletic fields that are pretty much a single stand of turf vs. golf courses that could require multiple tests from many locations two or three times a year could get costly. Today, many superintendents get soil tests conducted free of charge with the assistance of a fertilizer rep.

"Three acres of homogenous turf vs. 30 acres of greens, tees and fairways," Unruh said. "At that price point, one test (in sports turf) vs. multiple tests (in golf) make it cost prohibitive for golf."

Unruh and colleagues at UF have spent the past several years developing BMPs for golf courses, so a simplified test kit for superintendents seems like a natural extension to those efforts. 

"Definitely," he said. "We're not there yet."

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