Rapid Soil Fertility Research Institute, Lahore

What is soil? Top
Soil is the thin layer of material on the Earth’s surface. It is a natural resource consisting of weathered and organic materials, air and water. As it is the medium in which plants establish themselves and grow, the most widely recognized function of soil is its support for food production. Soil provides nutrients and water that are absorbed through plant roots and contribute to the regulation of water and atmospheric gases and therefore play an important role in climate regulation.  
Why are soils important? Top
Soils are a key enabling resource for human well-being, central to the creation of a host of products and essential ecosystem services:
  • Soils are the basis for the production of food, fibers, fuel and medicinal products.
  • Soils absorb, store, alter, purify and release water, both for plant growth and water supply.
  • Soils interact with the atmosphere through absorption and emission of gases (e.g. carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor) and dust;
  • Soils make up the greatest pool of terrestrial organic carbon (over double the organic carbon stored in vegetation).
  • Soils regulate carbon, oxygen and plant nutrient cycles (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, etc.)
  • Soil is the habitat of several animals and organisms such as bacteria and fungi and thus sustains biological activity, diversity and productivity.
  • Soil is the habitat for seed dispersion and dissemination of the gene pool.
  • Soils buffer, filter and moderate the hydrological cycle.
  • Soils are the platform for urban settlement and are used as materials for construction.
What is soil fertility? Top

The ability of soil to provide nutrients to the plants for growth is called soil fertility.

What does the Soil Testing Laboratory do? Top

We provide routine soil testing and fertilizer recommendations for the purpose of evaluating soil fertility and soil pH level and/or problems due to excessive salts or fertilizer materials

Will a soil test help diagnose problems with my plants? Top

Problems with plants may be caused by factors other than soil fertility, e.g. disease, insects, insufficient light, soil moisture or compaction, or climatic conditions. An evaluation of soil fertility and pH is an important first step in diagnosing problems. If soil fertility is not found to be a problem, then the other factors affecting plant growth should be evaluated to determine possible causes.

Where can I go for more help? Top

Check out our District Labs located in every district of the Punjab who can offer further help.

How long does it take for the Laboratory to analyze my samples? Top

It usually takes seven to ten business days for the Laboratory to process your soil samples.

When should I request the soluble salts test? Top
The soluble salts test is only necessary under specific conditions
The soluble salts test should be requested if:
  1. "black dirt" has been hauled in and poor growth is observed
  2. there is possible damage from salt used on streets and sidewalks or excess application of fertilizer
  3. the grass looks burned even when adequate water is present
  4. the soil is poorly drained and located in salt affected area of the Punjab
What is soil health? Top

Soil health is the capacity of soil to function as a living system. Healthy soils maintain a diverse community of soil organisms that help to control plant disease, insect and weed pests, and form beneficial symbiotic associations with plant roots. Healthy soils recycle essential plant nutrients, improve soil structure with positive repercussions for soil water and nutrient holding capacity, and ultimately improve crop production. A healthy soil does not pollute the environment; rather, it contributes to mitigate climate change by maintaining or increasing its organic carbon content.

What is Integrated Nutrient Management? Top

Integrated Nutrient Management refers to the maintenance of soil fertility and plant nutrient supply at an optimum level for sustaining the desired productivity. This is achieved by optimizing the benefits from all possible sources of organic, inorganic, biological and sustainable recyclable waste components in an integrated manner, to prevent environmental impacts from nutrient outflows.

What is soil pH? Top

It is defined as –ve logarithm of hydrogen ion activity in a solution. It is the measure of acidity and alkalinity in soils.

Why pH of soil is important in plant nutrition? Top

Availability of nutrients generally depends on soil pH and the nutrients which are required by most of the plants are available in a pH range of 6.5-7.5. 

What are essential nutrients? Top

A chemical element essentially required for the normal growth and reproduction of plants. 

How many nutrients are essential for plants? Top

There are twenty-one 21 nutrients which are necessary for the growth of plants i.e. Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Sulfur, Boron, Chlorine, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Zinc, Cobalt, Silicon, Sodium, Vanadium and Nickel.

What are macronutrients? Top

The nutrients required by plants in large quantity are called macronutrients i.e. Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium.

What are the secondary nutrients? Top

Calcium, Magnesium and sulfur are termed as secondary nutrients because they are rarely limiting and more rarely added to soil as fertilizers.

What are micronutrients? Top

The nutrients required by plants in small quantity are called micronutrients i.e. Boron, Chlorine, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Zinc, Cobalt, Silicon, Sodium, Vanadium and Nickel.

Why organic matter is important for soil fertility? Top

It stabilizes soil structure, improves aeration, porosity, infiltration and ultimately improves soil health.

Why organic matter status of our soils is very low? Top

Organic Matter of our soil is low due to high temperature and low rainfall.

What are the major sources of organic matter? Top

Farm Yard Manure, Humic acid, City Waste, Compost, Poultry Litter, Biochar and Press Mud.

What is the different between organic and inorganic fertilizers? Top

Organic fertilizers are derived from living organisms such as animal and plants e.g. manures.

Inorganic fertilizers are man-made chemicals, formulated to improve soil fertility.

What is compost? Top

It is a mixture of organic residues and soil that have been piled up and allowed to undergo biological decomposition.

What is humus? Top

A brown or black organic substance consisting of partially or wholly decayed vegetable or animal matter that provides nutrients for plants and increases the ability of soil to retain water.

What is humic acid? Top

Humic acid is a principle component of humic substances which are the major organic constituents of soil (humus), peat and coal.

What is urea? Top

It is a form of nitrogen fertilizers with Nitrogen 46%.

What is DAP? Top
Di-ammonium phosphate is one of a series of water-soluble ammonium phosphate salts that can be produced when ammonia reacts with phosphoric acid.  
What are the sources of potassium fertilizers? Top
Application of any fertilizing substance in a liquid form by spray is called foliar application and incorporation of fertilizers in soil is called soil application.  
What is the difference between soil application and foliar application of fertilizer? Top

Application of any fertilizing substance in a liquid form by spray is called foliar application and incorporation of fertilizers in soil is called soil application.

What are the soil related problems in Pakistan? Top

Soil related problems are:

  • Salinity and sodicity
  • Water shortage
  • Low organic matter
  • High temperature
  • Calcareousness
  • High pH
Why soil pH of our soil is high? Top

In arid and semiarid environment where soil are rich in bases (calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium) and contain soluble carbonates and bi-carbonates which produces OH- , soil pH is high ranging from 7-10.

Why P deficiency is most prominent in our soils? Top

In our soil Phosphorus react with soil calcium and form unsoluble compound.

What is the role of soil texture for crop production? Top

Soil texture is responsible for the movement of air and water through the soil due to its pore space and size.

What is C:N? Top

It is ratio of mass of carbon to mass of nitrogen in a substance. It serves as an indicator for nitrogen limitation of plants.

Why micro-organisms are more important for soil fertility? Top

Micro-organisms play a major role in the decomposition process and the formation of humus. The promote plant growth, produce plant hormones, fix nitrogen and facilitate mineralization.

What is the green manuring? Top

It is practice of growing lush plants on the site into which you want to incorporate the organic matter than turning into the soil while it is still green.

What is bio-fertilizer? Top

It is a substance which contains living micro-organisms, which when applied to soil increase the supply of primary nutrients to plants.