Master Gardener volunteer conducts a pH soil test on a soil sample
Image by Sandy Repp

A Master Gardener volunteer tests soil pH.

Soil Testing & Diagnostic Services

Why Test Soil?

A soil test will tell you what nutrients are in your soil and what you may need to add (in the form of fertilizer) for successful crop growth. Plants need nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (macronutrients) as well as micronutrients to grow. Deficiency or excess of these elements will impact the health and productivity of plants. In addition, the pH (acid/alkaline level) of your soil has an impact on how much of your soil's nutrients your plants will be able to use. CCE-Oneida's Agriculture and Horticulture Programs can provide or arrange several different tests for your soil and can help you to interpret the results and choose an appropriate course of action if necessary.

pH Testing

A pH test measures the acid/alkaline level of your soil. On the pH scale, 7.0 is considered neutral; lower numbers indicate acidic soil, while higher numbers indicate that the soil is alkaline. Most plants prefer a pH of 6.8. pH levels influence nutrient availability, with most nutrients being available to plants when the pH is in this range (6.8-7.0). If soil is too alkaline or too acidic, certain nutrients may be limited. To change soil pH to the desirable range, you will either add lime if the soil is too acidic or sulfur if the soil is too alkaline. With your pH test result, we will let you know what amount of lime or sulfur is needed if any.

The CCE-Oneida Horticulture Program will perform a pH test on soil samples that are brought to our Farm & Home Center, for a fee of $2/sample. Please see instructions on "How to take a soil sample", and bring a quarter cup of your combined samples to the CCE offices for testing. 

We also sell Cornell pH Test Kits. When properly used, the pH can be determined to be approximately +0.1 pH units. This is adequate for most situations. Note: the pH kit cannot be used accurately by a color-blind person. We offer the following kits: (prices do not include postage to mail)

  • Standard Range Kit (5.0-7.2), $20
  • Low Range Kit (4.0-6.2), $20
  • pH solution bottle refills, $3 per bottle

Nutrient Analysis

Dairy-One Soils Laboratory (800) 344-2697 x 2179

Standard soil nutrient test 

This test provides recommendations for helping you balance the nutrients in your soils.   Forms are available for the homeowner, as well as, for growers of commercial turf, commercial vegetables, commercial fruit, and field crops (pasture, hay, annual crops). The test measures soil pH, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and micronutrients including organic matter. Samples are sent to Dairy-One 730 Warren Rd., Ithaca. Expect at least one week for test results to be returned.

Download and print the appropriate FORM  from the Dairy-One website to include with your soil samples.  Make sure to put the code for the type of crop you are growing in the information (NOTE: For testing home garden soils, download and print Soil Laboratory Form H.  All submissions should include 2 cups dry soil, a check made out to Dairy-One (see form for pricing).   Place the completed form, soil and check  in a separate small box, and ship to their lab in Ithaca.

Additional tests (available through Dairy-One)

  • Soluble Salts
  • No-till pH
  • Nitrate
  • Boron

State-specific Dairy-One packages are targeted to customer needs. Due to the diversity of soils in North America, there are many different soil tests used to characterize the nutrient content of soils.

Each test was developed based on the chemistry of the soils and crop response in the region where the test will be used. Dairy-One offers soil test packages and nutrient guidelines to meet the diverse needs of commercial crop producers and homeowners here in the Northeast. * New York customers also have the option of a Dairy-One analysis with Cornell recommendations.


Jeff Miller (Field Crops) or Holly Wise (Consumer Gardens)

Jeff - Holly -
Jeff - (315) 736-3394 x 120 Holly - (315) 736-3394 x 125

Last updated July 11, 2023