Soil Health Test Sampling Instructions

When submitting soil samples to the PEI Analytical Laboratories (PEIAL) for the Soil Health testing, it is recommended that you follow these soil sampling guidelines to ensure that your sample is representative of your field conditions.  Read the instructions carefully before sampling to ensure you collect the proper amount of soil for the various testing packages.

Materials Required:

  • Small spade or shovel 
  • 5-gallon pail
  • Soil Health sample bag (brown- holds approx. 4 cups)
  • Soil Nutrient sample bag (white- holds approx. 2 cups)
  • Cooler (if applicable)

STEP 1: Clear a small area for sampling within the field by removing any surface plant or crop residues. Be careful to not remove a large amount of soil from the surface while removing plant debris as this may skew results.

STEP 2: Dig a small hole approximately 9-10” deep, while maintaining a smooth “wall” along one side of the hole so that it is vertically level.

STEP 3: From the smoothed-out area, remove a small cross section of soil approximately 2” wide and 7-8” deep (or to desired depth of crop’s living roots). Maintain even thickness throughout the cross section as you push spade into soil.

STEP 4: Place the soil sample into a pail, and repeat steps 1 to 3 until enough samples have been obtained for the sampling area. 
Please Note: Areas that are not representative of the field should not be included for sampling unless they are to be assessed as a separate sample. This includes areas that are uncharacteristically wet, boggy, low/high spots, particularly rocky areas, or sections that have been managed differently than the rest of the field.

STEP 5: Mix the soil together in the pail thoroughly with hands to make one composite sample, and place approximately 4 cups of soil in a labelled soil health sample bag.  Include sample ID, date and client name on soil health sample bag label. Put another sub-sample (approx. 2 cups) of soil into the soil nutrient analysis bag, and label with the same ID as the soil health sample bag.  Submitting for both the soil health and soil chemistry package is recommended to obtain the most thorough assessment of soil health.  Therefore, each sample submitted for a soil health analysis package (SH1, SH2, SH3) should be split into one large bag and one small bag. Soil Health Improvement Planning samples (SHIP) must be submitted in this fashion (*see below for more information on SHIP sampling).  If submitting soil for an individual soil health test (SH99), only one sample bag is needed. 

*When sampling for the Soil Health Improvement Planning program (SHIP), please submit one composite sample for soil health and a second composite sample for soil chemistry for each 30 acres of field.  Please collect a GPS coordinate for each soil sample. There are various GPS apps that can be used. GPS coordinates can be sent directly to the Soil Health Specialist with PEI Department of Agriculture at:

STEP 6: Place soil samples in a cool, shaded area (avoid direct sunlight), and deliver to lab as soon as possible. If samples cannot be delivered to the lab within 24 hours, refrigerate or place in a cool area and submit to the PEIAL as soon as possible. Do not freeze sample or allow sample to dry out.  Submission forms for soil health and soil nutrient analysis can be found at PEI Analytical Laboratory website.

Photos depicting each step are found below:

6 pictures of how to take a field soil sample as outlined in steps

Soil sampling techniques have been adapted for use on PEI from the Cornell Soil Health Manual sampling instructions (3rd ed.).

For more information contact:

Hardy Strom
Soil Health Research and Development Coordinator
Cell: (902) 314-0791

Morgan McNeil
Soil Health Specialist (SHIP)
Cell: (902) 213-3476



Published date: 
March 11, 2024