Soil Testing Services

Soil is a complex natural material made up of various organic materials. It serves as the medium for plant growth provided that harmful influences do not compromise plant health. The University of Guelph, Agriculture & Food Laboratory offers soil nutrient and diagnostic services providing micro and macro nutrient, fertility analysis as well as detection of soil pathogens such as fungi, nematodes, etc. The quality of soil can be affected by many things: bacteria, fungi, insects and nematodes. 

PLEASE NOTE: due to import restrictions, soil cannot be sent to Canada without an import permit

Nutrient Analysis

Our Soil and Nutrient Laboratory provides nutrient and elemental analysis of soil. The following tests are only suitable for commercial crop growers and not for residential properties. Our methods are designed for mineral soils and are not suitable for growing media that includes perlite or vermiculite.

Crop Soil Fertility Package Soil pH (sat. past) + SMP buffer pH, if pH <6.1, Phosphorus (P), sodium bicarbonate extractable, mg/L soil, Calcium (Ca), Potassium (K), Magnesium (Mg), and Sodium (Na), ammonium acetate extractable, mg/L soil.  OMAFRA recommendations (P, K, Mg) included if crop is specified (can include up to 2 crops per sample). 
Crop Soil Fertility Complete Soil pH (sat. past) + SMP buffer pH, if pH <6.1, Phosphorus (P), sodium bicarbonate extractable, mg/L soil, Calcium (Ca), Potassium (K), Magnesium (Mg) and Sodium (Na), ammonium acetate extractable, mg/L soil, Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe) and Zinc (Zn), DTPA extractable, mg/L soil, Manganese (Mn), phosphoric acid extractable, mg/L soil. OMAFRA recommendations (P, K, Mg) included if crop is specified (can include up to 2 crops per sample). Note: Do not use galvanized implements to sample soil due to possible zinc and iron contamination.


*Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium Ammonium acetate extractable. Reported mg/L soil.
*Copper, Iron, Zinc DPTA extractable. Reported mg/L soil.
*Manganese Phosphoric acid extractable Mn. Reported mg/L soil.
*Phosphorus Sodium bicarbonate extractable P. Reported mg/L soil.

*Nutrients reported by mass (mg/kg) are available on request at an additional charge. Please contact us for pricing (must be requested before analysis starts).

pH (sat. paste) The measurement of acidity of alkalinity in soil as received. OMAFRA accredited method.
pH (CaCl2) The measurement of soil pH in 1:1 soil - 0.01M CaCl2 solution.
Environmental Metals Closed vessel, mixed acid, microwave digestion of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper,
molybdenum, nickel, mercury, selenium, lead and zinc by ICP-MS.
CEC Cation Exchange Capacity (Barium chloride method).
Organic Matter O.M. (Loss on Ignition).
Total Carbon Total C in solid samples (Combustion method)
Inorganic Carbon  Inorganic C in solid samples (Combustion method)
Carbon Package Total, organic and inorganic C in solid samples (Combustion method)
Total Sulphur  Total acid digest
Total Nitrogen  Total N in solid samples (Combustion method).
Soil Ammonium and Nitrate KCl extractable NH4
Soil Nitrate KCl extractable NO3-N
Soil Nitrite KCl extractable NO2-N
Soil Chloride Ca(NO3)2 extractable Cl
E.C. (2.1) Standard Electrical Conductivity method (Total Salt method)
E.C (sat. paste) Electrical conductivity of saturated paste extraction.
Soil Moisture Soil moisture is determined gravimetrically on moist soil samples.
Particle Size Distribution Includes % sand, % silt, % clay, sand fraction and textural classification (Pipette method)
Bulk Density Undisturbed core sample is recommended.  Contact the lab for soil sampling rings.


Manure and Waste Analysis

Manure Package Total Kjeldahl N, P, Na & K, NH4 and percent dry matter in manures and other wastes.
NASM Package

Total Kjeldahl nitrogen, ammonium-N and nitrate + nitrite-N, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and dry matter. Suitable for NASM samples.

Carbon Package
Total, organic and inorganic C in solid or slurry samples (Combustion method).
Total Carbon
Total C in solid or slurry samples (Combustion method).
Dry Matter
Dried at 105oC
Loss on ignition
Loss on ignition at 425oC
Manure Ammonium and Nitrate
KCl extractable NH4-N and NO3-N.
Environmental Metals
Nitric/hydrochloric Acid digestible As, Se, Co, Cr, Cd, Cu, Hg, Mo, Ni, Pb and Zn.
pH (sat. paste)
Standard saturated paste method.
E.C. Electrical Conductivity 2:1 method.


Without the activities of soil organisms, organic materials would accumulate littering the soil surface and the result would be no food for plants. Bacteria play a key role in maintaining healthy soil acting as decomposers to break down organic materials.

Isolated bacteria can be identified to species using various microbial identification systems.


Soil-borne fungal (and fungal-like) plant pathogens such as Fusarium, Phytophthora, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, and Verticillium cause diseases in host plants that include crown rot, damping-off, root rot, and wilt.


Samples of Soil Fungal Diseases

Our DNA soil scan is an accurate and rapid test that is available for detection and identification of fungi. This test is offered in Canada exclusively by The University of Guelph, Agriculture & Food Laboratory (AFL) and is based on proven molecular technology protocols. The DNA soil scan, used for fungal pathogen identification in soil, can also be used for pathogen detection in plant and water samples and can accurately detect over 25 common fungal pathogens. Results are available in 4-5 business days.


Nematodes are microscopic round worms that inhabit a wide range of environments, including soil. Plant parasitic nematodes cause damage to roots of host plants and, in certain cases, cause damage to above-ground parts of host plants. Nematode feeding causes reduction of root mass and distortion and/or enlargement of roots. Damage to the root system also allows infection by other soil plant pathogens.

Plant parasitic nematodes most commonly found in Ontario soils include:

  • Ditylenchus (Bulb and Stem)
  • Helicotylenchus (Spiral)
  • Heterodera (Cyst)
  • Meloidogyne (Root-knot)
  • Paratylenchus (Pin)
  • Pratylenchus (Root lesion)
  • Tylenchorhynchus (Stunt)
  • Xiphinema (Dagger)

Soil Nematodes

  • Nematode Extraction from Soil (accredited by Standards Council of Canada)

Genera of plant parasitic nematodes are extracted from soil using the Baerman Pan method and nematodes are then identified and counted by our trained technicians. 

  • Soil Cyst Nematode (accredited by Standards Council of Canada)

Cysts of Heterodera spp. and Globodera spp. (cyst nematodes) are extracted from soil and counted.  Number of eggs from cysts are also counted.  Cyst nematode species identification is also available using molecular-based techniques.

Pesticide Testing

AFL has both single residue and multi-residue capabilities able to test for over 500 pesticide active ingredients.  Our testing services allow you to address a wide range of concerns pertaining to the use and application of pesticides on soil samples.

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