State Fair visitors get free MU soil-health test

Visitors to the Missouri State Fair on Saturday, Aug. 12, can get a free active carbon test of their soil. It gives insight into overall soil health.

The soil testing is a joint program from the University of Missouri, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Soil and Water Program at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. They promote cover crops to protect soil and prevent runoff from crop fields.

Visitors can bring up to three samples, says Ryan Lock, in MU plant science. The carbon health test takes about 20 minutes at the fair.

For testing, fairgoers should bring about one-third cup of air-dried soil in a zip-lock bag. Tests will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Collect samples to compare crop systems. That could be from a conventionally tilled field, a no-till field and a grass-covered fence row. Carbon levels will be different in each. The test shows the impact growing plants have on soil health.

Cover crops are used on fields usually left bare after harvest.

Homeowners can take part in the study. They can sample their lawn and a garden.

Testing is a part of a mini-symposium at the fair, Lock says. Booths staffed by the agencies will be on hand. DNR will have representatives to discuss cost-share programs.

The booths are in Mizzou Central, also known as the Mo-Ag Theater, on State Fair Blvd.

Cover crops in modern agriculture are seeded at harvest before tilled crop fields are exposed to erosion over winter. Carbon from the cover crop adds soil health.

A demonstration of simulated rainfall on bare soil and a cover-crop strip will show how water moves in fields with different management. Doug Peterson of NRCS shows this at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The MU Soil Health Lab does the free tests. These differ from traditional soil tests, which measure nutrients.

Sampling details are on the web at

Source: Ryan Lock, 573-228-2801

For more than 100 years, University of Missouri Extension has extended university-based knowledge beyond the campus into all counties of the state. In doing so, extension has strengthened families, businesses and communities.

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