Recommended Soil & Water Tests

Every soil testing lab offers its own specific analysis and recommendations, and you can send soil sample to the lab of your choice. I frequently recommend Regen Ag Lab in Nebraska and Logan Labs in Ohio as great places to start. The table below lists the soil and water tests I recommend. I may update the list as my knowledge evolves. For a cost-effective baseline nutrient assessment, I suggest either the Ag-Dyn 3 test from Logan Lab or the Complete plus the hot water extract for Molybdenum.

If you want to gain a more comprehensive understanding of your farm or property as an ecosystem, I recommend running the Total Nutrient Digest, Complete, Haney SHA, and Complete Water Analysis from Regen Ag Lab. This set of tests will reveal the nutrients in your parent material and organic matter, whether your irrigation water will affect nutrient availability, and how nutrients will cycle and if your soil is biologically active. These four tests provide a good overview of the chemical aspect of soil health and insight into the biological aspect. Of course, there’s more to uncover, and we will use the information you provide in the intake form and other sources.

My focus is not on creating a perfect soil report, but rather on optimizing soil function. The baseline information will enhance the overall picture of your farm.

Test Type


Key Technical Similarities & Differences

General Ideal Time

Suggested lab and test to run

Are you creating your project's baseline? Run these. 

Standard Soil Test

Nutrient & Mineral Availability

Snapshot in time, weak acid extraction, shows available nutrients & minerals, useful for making soil fertility amendment recommendations

At the beginning of a project or garden. Fall is ideal, but spring is fine.

Regen Ag Lab - Complete  Logan Labs - Ag Dyn 3

and/or Haney SHA

Total Digest or Acid Extractable Totals Test

Soil Reserve

Strong acid extraction, provides insight into soil's deep reserves, long term nutrient assets and weaknesses

At the beginning of a project or garden. Only needed once per soil type

Regen Ag Lab - Total Nutrient Digest

Saturated Paste Test

Water Solubility

Shows minerals & nutrients in soil solution, useful for growers/soils that rely on soluble nutrition

Early season in-field, anytime of interest in soilless media, just before fruiting and crops transitions

Haney/Soil Health Analysis

Soil Health and plant available nutrients

Dual extraction process, mimics plant produced acids, biological indicators, shows soil health score, is becoming useful for making soil fertility amendment recommendations. Can be ran instead of a standard soil test.

During the most biologically active phase of the season, like early summer

Phospholipid Fatty Acids (PLFA)

Soil Health, Microbial Biomass, relative abundance of slow growing microbes

Estimates living microbial biomass in soil, provides information on different functional groups of organisms, F:B ratio is a good indicator of function

When the grower wants a broad objective qualitative and quantitative biological soil health baseline, when experiencing nutrient tie-ups or exceptional plant health


Soil Health, Microbial Processes in Nutrient Cycling, diversity of community “who is really there”

DNA extraction. Measures microbial diversity, function and processes involved in nutrient cycling

Anytime, this test extracts DNA for active and dormant biology

Microscope Method

Soil Health, Course count of bacteria, protozoa and fungi

Subjective qualitative and quantitive soil biological assessment. Accuracy will vary with the practitioners skill and knowledge.

During the growing season or once soils warm

Water Analysis - Packages

Irrigation water nutrient assessment

Water test for nutrients, pH, and other variables like carbonates and bi-carbonate that can antagonist soil nutrient availability to plants

At the beginning of a project, anytime a water source changes  or their is issues with nutrient tie-up

Regen Ag Lab - Water Analysis Compete                          Logan Lab - Irrigation Water Suitability