How to Take a Soil Sample for Field Crops

Why take Soil Samples?

Routine Soil Analysis


We are specialists in soil fertility management and developing fertilizer programs for farmers. We carry out fast and affordable soil analysis in our laboratory, and we use the results to make the right recommendations for your farm. We are independent and don't sell any farm input products and we only offer you the best advice.

Soil testing is essential for building sustainable soil fertility and fertilizer management programs for your farm, to increase your crop yields and reduce your input costs. Accurate sampling is absolutely critical to a successful soil management plan as all recommendations are based on the samples submitted to the lab.

How to take a soil sample in a field crop

Equipment Needed

1.Sample bags (we can supply at no charge)

2.  Auger or shovel

3.  Bucket

4.  Sample submission forms (please request these from us)

5.  Field logbook 

6. Labels or marker pens

Selecting Sample Areas

When you are selecting areas to sample you must remember that there is no set size but we recommend more samples for areas greater than 20 Ha. The actual size of the sample area is determined by certain factors. Areas that differ in any of the following should be sampled separately: 

  1. Soil type.
  2. Soil colour.
  3. Previous cropping history.
  4. Previous lime or fertilizer applications.
  5. Slope.
  6. Drainage.

For example, eleven samples have been taken from the area below:

Where very large areas of land are uniform, divide the land into areas that would be treated as a unit (i.e. one field), and sample these areas individually. One sample should represent one field, as individual fields will have had different treatments in the past. As mentioned, it is recommended that one soil sample should not represent more than 20 hectares regardless of apparent field uniformity.This is because non-uniformity is usually difficult to assess over broad areas of landscape. Large fields can be divided for sampling purposes into two or three smaller sections. 

Make a map of your fields and always label the field with the same name – this way you can follow your field’s soil health historically. You may record in a logbook.

Sampling Depth

Depth of sampling is critical because tillage and nutrient mobility in the soil can influence nutrient levels in different soil zones. Sampling depth depends on:

  1. Crop.
  2. Cultural practices.
  3. Tillage depth.
  4. Nutrients to be analyzed.

Plant roots, biological activity and nutrient levels occur mainly in the top soil (0-25 cm) hence most of the soil samples are collected within this layer. For tree crops and other deep rooted crops, samples from the sub soil (25–50 cm) should also be collected.

Sampling Procedure


One sample should consist of about 20 cores taken from the set area.

1. It is recommended that the cores be taken from the area in a zigzag pattern as shown below:

2. Put the soil cores in a bucket and mix thoroughly. 

3. Label the sample bag carefully with your company name, farm name, field name, sample depth and date, and crop to be grown. Fill the soil bag half full (500g), from this mixed representative sample.

4. Different tools such as a soil sampling tube, soil auger, or spade may be used to take soil samples. Do not use galvanized, soft steel or brass equipment if analysis for trace metal analyses is desired. Clean all tools between sampling.

5. Avoid taking samples from areas such as lime piles, fertilizer spills, ant hills, gate areas, livestock congregation areas, poorly drained areas, dead furrows, fertilizer bands, old fence rows, or any other unusual areas.

Scrape away surface litter and crop residues, and sample the whole core from the true soil surface to 25 cm depth.

The quality of any analysis is directly related to how well the sample is collected.

N Fertilizer Recommendations

Our lab analysis determines the amount of available nitrogen in your soils and we give you calculated nitrogen fertilizer recommendation based on the results. This is based on your yield target, nitrogen removal, organic matter and nitrogen efficiency of your soil type. 

Soil Health Care Program

Our Soil Health Care Program is a complete service package for growers who want to sustain farm's profit, through building and maintaining high levels of soil fertility in each of the fields.

The service includes:

  •          On farm sampling by our technician before each crop
  •          Full Soil Health Audit and Soil Fertility Analysis in our Laboratory
  •          Detailed lab report including full Soil Fertility Correction & Fertilizer Recommendations
  •          Farm visit every 6 months by our Soil Health Advisor to monitor the program and advise on additional soil health practices such as crop rotations and green manure crops

Sample handling and dispatch to lab

  1. If possible soil samples that are moist should be air dried on site away from dust contamination and not in direct sunlight
  2. Samples from outside Kenya require an import permit. Please contact us to get the necessary documents.

Routine Soil Analysis Packages

Code Analysis Name Description Days
CNSA022 Complete Soil Analysis pH, EC, %OM, %N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Na, S, Fe, Mn, Cu, B, Zn, CEC, Ca:Mg ratio, %Ca, %Mg, %K, %Na, %Other Bases, %H with Full Recommendations 7
CNSA104 Available Soil Nitrogen Available Soil Nitrogen kg/Ha (Top soil + Sub soil) 7
CNSA040 Soil Life Test Soil Biota Respiration Test (indicator of soil health) 7
CNSA090 Exchangeable Acidity (Hp) Hp 7
CNSA050 Soil Texture Analysis % Sand, % Silt, % Clay (Texture Class) 10
CNSA091 Heavy Metals As, B, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Pb, Ni, Zn 7

For more information please contact us through:

Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services Ltd.

Off Limuru Road, Limuru, Kenya

Telephone +254 (0) 711094444, + 254 (0) 720 839 933

Email (View on Google Maps), Kenya

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