Have your soil tested. This is the first step in planning an economical and environmentally sound fertilization program. Testing is providedas a free service by the NCDA&CS. Each soil sample is analyzed to determine pH and the available levels of most major nutrients, such as phosphorus (P205), potassium (K2O), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S). The analysis also determines soil levels of several micronutrients, such as manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), and zinc (Zn). The soil test report suggests application rates for lime and for each nutrient that should meet crop needs under good growing conditions.
The nutrient rates suggested on the soil test report reflect only what is found in the sample. Therefore, each sample should be taken properly so it adequately represents the field where the crop is to be grown. Take samples every 3 years (coastal plain) or 4 years (piedmont) from fields tended regularly by the same grower. For unfamiliar fields or those out of tobacco production for several years, take samples 4 to 6 months before the first tobacco crop. Submitting samples in the fall rather than winter or spring will enable you to receive soil test reports quickly and allow more time for planning fertilization programs. Soil boxes and instructions for taking samples can be obtained at your county Cooperative Extension Center.