3 Ways To Test Soil pH Without Using The Soil Test Kit

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 grow, type, and level of soil amendment such as liming to be done.

soil ph testing
Source: Aya Grows

Significance Of Soil pH

The soil pH testing involves the measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil on a scale of 0-14. The lower range between 0-6 means the soil is acidic and the higher range between 8-14 means the soil is alkaline. A scale of 7 stands for neutrality, meaning, the substance is neither acidic nor alkaline.

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, some natural materials can be used to measure the acidity and alkalinity of the soil.

Testing the pH of 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 deciding which crop to grow on a certain piece of land.

Plants have a preference for the type of soil they grow in; the preference is on accord with 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.

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 want 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 Strips

Litmus paper strips are pH-sensitive paper used to determine the acidity and alkalinity of a substance. It comes in a pair, of red and blue litmus paper. Red litmus paper turns blue under alkaline conditions while blue litmus paper turns red under acidic conditions.

litmus strip for test soil pH

To carry out the soil pH test using the litmus strips, get the sample of the soil to be tested inside a container, and add distilled water to it so that it looks slurry or forms paste. Insert the Litmus papers and observe the color change. If the red litmus paper turns blue, it means the soil is alkaline; if the blue turns red, it means the soil is acidic.

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 soil 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 a pH ranging between 7-8.

To check if the soil is acidic, add distilled water (This is the water obtained 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 a pH ranging between 5 and 6. However, if the soil does not react, it means it is neutral.

Related: How To Identify Fertile Soil Physically Without Carrying Out Soil Test 

#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, allowing 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, and pour a little quantity of the liquid into a little quantity of the soil like 2 full teaspoons. Wait for about 40 minutes to observe the color change.

If the mixture is purple, 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 test is highly recommended; this is because distilled water is free from ions that can react with the solution, thus, hindering the result from being gotten from the test. The Litmus paper can be gotten from any chemist.

Importance Of Soil pH

  • Soil pH testing tells the suitability of the soil for growing certain crops
  • Soil pH controls the availability of 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.
  • Soil pH influences soil properties, like soil structure, affecting plants growth.

Final words.

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 surveys or site inspections.

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.

Read also: How To Correct Saline And Alkaline Soil For Crop Cultivation

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