The WVU Soil Testing Laboratory will provide to our customers scientifically
based fertility and liming recommendations for your individual situation.
When you apply the recommendations we provided, the outcome will be as good as the
sample you sent to us.
That is why we recommend that you submit to us a “representative sample” for your
What is a representative sample?
Is a sample that represents the average in your sampled area the best.
How do I sample my area or field?
It will depend on the characteristics of your area or field and management.
Samples should represent different characteristics and management zones in the
You could take different samples in areas with different slopes A-B-C and
D (see image below), or different managements (hay vs. pasture fields).
Where To Sample: Random sampling to obtaining a representative composite sample.
This image shows dots along zigzag lines in Fields B & C where random soil
samples might be taken.
A diagram showing more examples of random soil sampling.
This diagram shows a field divided into 4 quadrants and various locations
where soil samples might be taken in the various quadrants.
Field 1 at the bottom left of the diagram, Sample 1 could be
taken at the foot of the slope. Sample 2 is located at the top left of
the quadrant where the field had been limed while Sample 3 is in the
top right non-limed portion of the field.
Field 2 is in the top left portion of the image. Sample 4 is
taken at the highest point of this field in the top left corner, while
Sample 5 is made at the bottom of the quadrant.
Field 3 in the top right corner, shows two different versions
of random patterns of 14 samplings. These 14 samplings will be combined
to form one composite sampling for Sample 6.
Field 4 in the bottom right section, the pasture is divided
into top and bottom for sampling purposes, with Sample 7 coming from
the higher slope and Sample 8 from the bottom land.
Take random samples from each main area to obtain one composite sample per
Example of main areas are:
Tools to sample
The best tools for taking a soil sample are the soil core sampling tube or
auger. These tools are pushed (tube) or twisted (auger) into the soil to
the proper depth to extract a small core of soil. A number of these cores
are combined to provide a “composite” soil sample. Taken from: Soil Sampling
and Testing by Ed Rayburn and Tom Basden, WVU Extension Specialists (June
Soil core sampler or probe (P), clean bucket (B), plastic glass (G) for grinding
the soil, slotted spoon (S) for removing small rocks and coarse organic matter
from the soil.
You will prepare a “composite sample”, and take part of it to send to our laboratory.
The “composite sample” is prepared by mixing soil taken at several different
locations in your sampled area. You will mix the soil in a clean container.
An individual composite sample (15-30 locations) should represent no more than
10 acres except when soils, past management, and cropping history are quite
The most representative sample can be obtained from a large field by sampling
smaller areas on the basis of soil type, cropping history, erosion, or past
management practices as shown in our previous figures. Some managements practices
such as manure application applied to certain parts of the fields, will increase
the soil P content in the applied spots.
Soil sampling can also be used separate areas of the field that are visually
different or have consistently problems (for example low yielding areas).
To prepare a composite sample, randomly collect at least 7-10 soil cores for
small areas (less than 1 ac) and up to 15-30 cores for larger fields (1-10
We do not recommend that you samples:
areas used for manure or hay storage and livestock feeding
areas where lime or fertilizer has been piled
Sampling depth and sampling frequency
How deep should I take my samples
Home Gardens -- To tillage depth
Agricultural Crops -Conventional Tillage-- To tillage depth
Agricultural Crops-- No-till-- 6 inches split into two samples a) top 2 inches
and b) lower 4 inches