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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the turnaround time for soil testing?

A. In general, routine soil test results will be sent out 6-10 business days after receipt of samples at the lab (not counting shipping time, time for Campus Mail to deliver to the lab, or weekends and holidays). The main exceptions are during our spring rush (usually mid-March through June), or when we are short-staffed or have had to close the lab temporarily. For current information visit the Turnaround Time page of our website. 

Q. When is the best time to test my soil?

A. Soil testing can be done at any time, but it is best to test as early as possible, especially when pH adjustment is necessary prior to planting.  Consider testing at the end of the growing season (late October through November). This gives the grower time to plan for the spring and avoids the spring rush here at the lab. Soil characteristics will not change significantly over the cold winter months.

Q. I don't live in New England.  Can I still get my soil tested at UMass?

A. The UMass Soil Lab accepts soils from all over the continental U.S.  However, we use the Modified Morgan extracting solution for nutrient analysis.  This extracting solution was developed for New England's sandy, acidic soils.  Additionally, lime and fertilizer recommendations are intended for soil conditions and climate in New England.  While useful information can be obtained by getting a soil test at UMass, differences in soil types and growing conditions need to be taken into account when interpreting test results and recommendations.

Q. Why don't I see nitrogen results on my test report?

A. Plants absorb nitrogen as nitrate and ammonium.  Soil nitrogen levels can fluctuate widely with weather and soil conditions over short time periods.  For this reason, soil nitrogen testing is only useful for predicting immediate fertilizer application needs.  For more information about nitrogen test results, recommendations, and testing options, see the fact sheet "Frequently Asked Questions about Nitrogen."

Q. Can I drop off a sample at the lab?

A. We are currently unable to accept most hand-delivered orders for analysis. If you have 30 or more samples, please email or call 413-545-2311 to arrange a contactless dropoff outside our building. All other orders must be mailed through the US Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, or other private carrier. On-campus orders may be delivered to the lab via Campus Mail.

Q. Who do I make my check out to?

A. University of Massachusetts (UMass)

Q. On the order form, there is a line for “Sample ID.” What is that?

A. The Sample ID is merely whatever you want to call your sample. If you are sending more than one sample, it enables you to tell one sample from another.

Q. I am concerned about contaminants in my soil. Can you help me?

A. Our Routine Analysis ($20 per sample) includes a lead screening that measures extractable soil lead levels. This is a screening test that may identify soils with elevated lead levels that require further testing, as explained in our Lead Fact Sheet. For definitive results, you need the Total Sorbed Metals test (EPA methods 3050B and 6010), which measures total lead and other heavy metals. See our Services page for detailed information and regarding tests offered. The UMass Soil Testing Lab is a nutrient lab and does not test soil for other contaminants such as hydrocarbons, PCBs, or pesticides.

Q. Can I pay for my soil test by Credit Card?

A. We’re sorry but we cannot accept credit cards, debit cards, or electronic transfers (outside the UMass system) at this time. We accept checks, money orders or cash only.  Purchase orders are accepted from public entities, such as schools, universities and municipalities only.