Fast, Inexpensive Soil pH Testing

Ernie Neffsoil

Chris Oswalt demonstrates a handheld soil pH meter.

Multi-county citrus Extension agent Chris Oswalt took several baggies of soil to an OJ break he hosted Jan. 14 at the Citrus Research and Education Center. He inserted a handheld pH meter into the soil in one of the baggies and within seconds told watching growers the content’s pH level.

“Soil pH is real important, especially with HLB-infected trees today,” says Oswalt, who serves growers in Polk and Hillsborough counties. “We’ve found that it’s beneficial to keep the pH at a little lower level than what we would, say, with normal, healthy trees. So in order to maintain the pH in that range that we’re recommending, it’s important that we measure soil pH I think more frequently” than once a year, which used to be normal for many growers. Oswalt says measuring soil pH lets growers see how their efforts to maintain proper pH levels are working.

“Using a handheld meter as we demonstrated today is a very easy and fairly inexpensive way to determine soil pH relatively quickly,” Oswalt says. “You don’t have to dry the sample; you don’t have to add any water.”

The handheld pH meters are easy to obtain. “You can go online and find these types of meters there,” Oswalt says. “And they’re fairly affordable.” He says the meters can be used to measure the pH of liquids as well as soil.

“I think right now what we’re (University of Florida researchers) looking at is somewhere between, say, 5.8 to 6.5 pH range for citrus that’s affected by HLB,” Oswalt says.

He concludes by recommending growers monitor pH levels “because there’s a lot of things that we’re doing out there to try to manage this (HLB) and make micronutrients and nutrients more available to these trees because of the limited root systems. Soil pH is a way that we can try to keep those nutrients soluble and available for these trees to take up.”

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large