How Soil Testing Can Help Protect Against Dry Growing Seasons

The growing season is just around the corner. For those looking to maximize crop yield and minimize issues, it’s time to take a serious look at your soil and identify any factors that may put your crops at a disadvantage.

Soil health and quality are two of the biggest determinants of crop vitality and longevity. With Alberta potentially poised to face another dry season, knowing exactly what’s going on beneath the surface level of your dirt is integral to battling the many complications that come with drought-like circumstances.  

Below, we’ll take a look at how soil testing can help assess a wide range of factors, including structure and overall vitality and determine what restorative and preventative steps are necessary for optimal crop yields. Read on to learn more!

What’s the Dirt on Soil Testing? 

In the simplest of terms, soil testing is the process of gathering and assessing soil samples taken from farmland to determine the quality of your dirt. Soil testing takes a look at the biological, chemical, and physical properties of your soil. Soil tests can provide key insights regarding the texture and structure of the soil, as well as PH, salinity, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium and other micronutrient levels. 

Note: nitrogen levels are typically not assessed due to the wide array of variables that may cause them to fluctuate

Partnering with a trusted agronomy team like the experts at Norstar Agriculture to conduct accurate soil testing has a multitude of benefits, especially during dry seasons, where micronutrients are essential to combating less-than-ideal conditions. When conducted by a trusted source, soil testing can offer farmers the following:- lower chances of runoff issues

  • optimized yield potential 
  • better nutritional balance (both in the long and short term)
  • enhanced fertilizer inputs, and more. 

If you’re looking to get ahead and stay ahead of inclimate dry seasons, soil testing is essential for protecting your crops and revitalizing your land. 

What Problems Does Soil Testing Identify and Help Prevent? 


There is a wide range of issues that soil testing can identify, including excess nutrient levels (i.e. potassium), high pH levels, low organic matter, or drainage issues. Because soil can be taken from multiple areas, testing is also highly effective when it comes to comparative analysis and flagging problem areas of your field that may have different issues that will (or have in previous seasons) lead to inconsistent yield. It’s important to remember that test results can take a few weeks; to optimize your end results, it is imperative to plan ahead and submit samples early in order to be able to implement solutions in time for planting. 

Prevention and Performance

As any experienced agriculturist and farmer will tell you, expecting a high yield from poor soil simply isn’t going to happen. Soil tests help remove ambiguity and guesswork and show you exactly what preventative steps and treatment options are necessary to give you the crop yield you need. From identifying highly acidic or alkaline soil, which can be treated with agricultural lime, to catching other issues in the early stages, soil testing is a valuable resource for farmers of all scales. It’s worth noting that while many growers only test every 3-5 years, for optimal performance and treatment viability, farmers benefit the most by conducting annual assessments, especially given the last few extremely dry seasons seen across the Canadian prairies. Soil testing allows you to determine exactly what kind of fertilizer you need for optimal performance, minimize and maximize your spending on treatment materials like lime, humic acid, and gypsum, and build a custom-tailored restoration plan that feeds your land for many seasons. 

What to Know Prior to Soil Testing

As mentioned above, timing is key when it comes to getting the best results from soil tests. Aim to test well before planting; for those who have made changes to your fertilization schedule/products, you may want to invest in seasonal tests as well to determine if your corrective actions have been successful. Partnering with an agronomist is also essential to guarantee consistent results, which, in turn, allows you to keep thorough records of any shifts over the years. The more detailed your documentation, the easier it is to find the right solution; therefore, it’s important to ensure you’ve got the right partners on your side.

What About DIY Soil Testing?

While DIY soil testing is possible, for those operating a large-scale farming operation, it is not only impractical, but it is also highly efficient and lacks dependability. Working with an agronomist, such as the team at Norstar gives you access to expertise and leading industry knowledge that helps to prevent mishaps and allows for expedited results and recommendations that serve your best interests. For commercial agricultural purposes, it is highly advisable to utilize the assistance of a trusted expert

Soil Testing and Crop Optimization with Norstar Agriculture 

Norstar Agriculture is proud to help farmers and growers across Alberta and Western Canada revitalize their fields and increase their crop yields. Alongside a large inventory of fertilizing and plant nutrition supplies, we offer onsite agronomy evaluation, including soil testing and more.  Learn how we can help you grow by contacting our team today!