Educational Outreach

Soil Testing Activity

Florida Poly student examines soil samples in the on-campus garden.
Florida Poly student examines soil samples in the on-campus garden.

Learning Outcomes

  • Student will be able to identify the nutrient components of fertile soil
  • Students will be able to explain what best management practices (BMP) are
  • Student will be able to design a custom blended fertilizer
  • Student will understand how soil conservation methods can protect the soil and its fertility


  • Goggles
  • Distilled Water (400 mL/1 pint for 10 tests)
  • Stopwatch
  • Plastic spoon
  • 1 cup each of various soil samples (3 samples)
  • Extraction Tube
  • Pipette
  • 3 test tubes
  • Commercial Soil Test (*Rapitest Kit used in this exercise)

How It Works 

Nutrient rich soil is needed to grow healthy crops to provide food for humans and animals. Soils contain phosphate and other nutrients such as nitrogen and potassium.   Unfortunately, not all soils are naturally nutrient rich.   When farmers apply nutrients, either in organic or mineral form, it is to fertilize the soil, not the plant. Soil testing and other diagnostic tools should be used. If the nutrients in the soil are already sufficient, adding fertilizers is more likely to be damaging environmentally, as well as economically wasteful.  Adding the correct nutrients to make a custom blended fertilizer is a best management practice (BMP). In this activity, students will test the nutrient composition of local soil samples.


  1. Phosphorus Test
  2. Nitrogen Test
  3. Potassium Test
  4. pH Test


  1. What are the components of fertile soil?
  2. How can soil conservation methods protect the soil and its fertility?
  3. What causes soil degradation (soil becomes unfertile)?
  4. What would happen to crops if they were grown in unfertile soil? What would happen to the organisms that consume them?
  5. How have modern farming practices replaced the traditional methods of farming?
  6. What are the foods produced in the greatest amounts throughout the world?
  7. How has the demand for food worldwide affected the demand for fertilizers for soil?
  8. How has the green revolution increased yields of new crop varieties through modern agricultural techniques?

Additional Resources