Soil pH is one of the intrinsic properties of the soil; the soil pH test is the measure of the acidity or basicity (alkalinity) of a soil. These parameters, acidity, and alkalinity of the soil, are essential for making productive decisions prior to the planting of crops. The pH of a soil tells the suitability of the soil for the cultivation of certain plants. The soil pH can be determined using the soil test kit, however, there some natural materials that can be used to measure acidity and alkalinity of the soil.
Testing the pH of a soil is a very crucial preplanting operation that must be done before planting on such soil. The significance of soil ph cannot be overruled when it comes to making a decision of which crop to grow on a certain piece of land. Plants have a preference for the type of soil they grow; the preference is on the accord of the soil pH. Some plants thrive best in soils with high pH while others prefer soils with low pH. The status of the soil must be known before the production plan.
You can test the pH of the soil using different techniques. The best way to test soil pH is using the soil test kit. This contains sensors that detect several parameters of the soil such as the pH level, Nitrogen, and other essential elements level in the soil. All the parameters are used to determine the type of crop to grows, type, and level of soil amendment such as liming to be done.
Significance Of Soil pH
The importance of soil ph cannot be overemphasized.
Soil ph controls the availability of the essential nutrients
The ph of a soil determines the type of plant species to grow
At low pH, the biological transformation of ammonium nitrate to nitrate is slowed down.
High soil ph can disrupt the soil structure.
In the absence of the soil test kit, there are other ways of testing soil ph at low cost. They are simple ways to test the acidity or alkalinity of any soil at first glance. You do not need to take samples to the laboratory before you get the actual pH status of the soil; with these techniques, you can test the soil pH within a twinkle of an eye.
Methods of Testing Soil pH level
I would like to take you through three (3) ways of testing soil pH without using the soil test kit, these are:
#1. How To Test Soil Ph With Litmus Paper
Litmus paper strips a pH-sensitive paper used to determine the acidity and alkalinity of a substance. It comes in a pair, a red and blue litmus paper. Red litmus paper turns blue under alkaline conditions while blue litmus paper turns red under acidic conditions.
To carry out the soil pH test using the litmus strips, get the sample of the soil to be tested inside a container, add distilled water to it so that it looks slurry or forms paste. Insert the Litmus papers and observe the change in color. If the red litmus paper turns blue it means the soil is an alkaline soil and if the blue turns red, it means the soil is acidic soil.
#2. How to test soil pH using Vinegar and baking soda
Vinegar and baking soda are common materials used in food industries; they are both sensitive to acid and alkaline. They can be used to test the pH of the soil.
To use this method for testing the soil pH, collect the soil sample to be tested, divide the soils into two portions, and pour each in plastic. Add a half cup of Vinegar into one sample, if it effervesces (that is it brings out rapid bubbles) it means the soil is alkaline with pH ranging between 7-8.
To check if the soil is acidic, add distilled water (This is the water gotten from the cooling of the water vapor that evolves when you boil water or can also be gotten from chemist shops) to the other sample until the soil gets muddy, add a half cup of baking powder to it.
If it fizzles out bubbles, it means the soil is acidic with pH ranging between 5 and 6. However, if the soils did not react, it means it is neutral.
#3. Testing Soil Ph With Red Cabbage
Red cabbage is a common vegetable; the juicy extract from the cabbage can be used to test the pH of any substance it comes in contact with.
To test the soil pH using red Cabbage, chop the red cabbage into pieces with a knife. Boil the distilled water and later add the chopped red cabbage, allow it to soak for about 20 minutes before you evacuate the solid particles of the cabbage leaving the purple-colored liquid, with a neutral pH.
Pour the liquids into two different cups, divide the soil to be tested into two with each portion in different cups, pour little quantity of the liquid into little quantity of the soil like 2 full teaspoons. Wait for about 40 minutes to observe the change in color.
If the mixture is purple in color, it means the soil is neutral with a pH of about 6.5-7. If the mixture turns pink, it means the soil is acidic with a pH value of between 1-7, the brighter the pink color, the more acidic the soil is. If the mixture turns green it implies that the soil is alkaline with a pH value ranging from 8 – 14, the brighter the green color the more alkaline the soil is.
NOTE: Using distilled water to carry out this simple soil ph tests is highly recommended; this is because distilled water is free from ions that can react with the solution, thus, hindering the result to be gotten from the test. The Litmus paper can be gotten from any chemist.
You may not get the actual pH value using the aforementioned soil pH test techniques; however, you will observe the physical characteristics of acidic and alkaline. This is enough to make decisions during soil survey or site inspection.
Some simple tricks are required during the process of crop cultivation to reduce the cost of production. Part of these tricks are these methods of testing soil ph without using the soil test kit.