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Agronomic Services — News Release

FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2002

Contact: Catherine Stokes
(919) 733-2655

Reaping the benefits of 50 years of soil sampling

RALEIGH — In the early 1950s, Dan Washburn carried his first soil sample to the N.C. Department of Agriculture laboratory in downtown Raleigh. In the five decades that have passed, the soil testing service has had six directors and has changed offices three times, but Washburn is still showing up with his samples in tow.

Washburn, who lives in Granville County, comes by his interest in soil naturally. He was raised on a farm in Cleveland County. His father had dairy cattle, grew some cotton, and dreamed of making 100-bushel-an-acre corn?a pretty ambitious goal in 1940.

The 1940s were also the inaugural years for the state’s soil testing service. With the help of a county agent, some water, fertilizer and lime, Washburn’s father was able to far exceed his goal twice: once with a yield of 127 bushels and again with 132 bushels. Those successes occurred during the soil testing service’s infancy when there was a statewide campaign to promote soil sampling.

Washburn inherited his father’s passion for making things grow. He studied at N.C. State University and soon was conducting field tests on forages at the university. For 15 years, he regularly collected soil samples and had them analyzed as part of this work.

“Calcium and lime are necessary for crops to make good use of the fertilizer nutrients available to them,” Washburn said. “Soil testing is the best way to find out how much to add.”

In 1970, Washburn left the university and joined a friend in the landscape maintenance business in Raleigh. He soon found that soil testing took on additional significance in his new line of work. “The quality of my work reflected on me. It was advertising. I based all my lime and fertilizer applications on soil test recommendations so the lawns I cared for would look their best.”

Today, Washburn’s company, Tar Heel Landscape Enterprises, Inc., of Raleigh, does much more than grounds maintenance. It has a landscaping component and a nursery component. Washburn has 60 to 80 clients and submits about 150 soil samples each year, usually in late March.

“Our agreement with each client states that we will take soil samples,” says Washburn. “There are some soil test kits available commercially, but I trust the state agriculture department’s laboratory. I have confidence in their results.”

“North Carolina residents have relied on recommendations from the state’s soil testing service for more than 60 years,” said Dr. Richard Reich, director of the NCDA&CS Agronomic Division. “We take pride in our work. That’s why people like Mr. Washburn keep coming back.

“Soil testing not only provides good recommendations for plant growth, but it also helps protect water quality by preventing overapplication of nutrients. Anyone who uses lime or fertilizer can benefit from this service,” he added.

Persons interested in collecting and submitting soil samples can find instructions at the Web site For further information, call the NCDA&CS Agronomic Division at (919) 733-2655 or contact your county Cooperative Extension office.


Last Update August 1, 2007


NCDA&CS Agronomic Services Division, Colleen M. Hudak-Wise, Ph.D., Director
Mailing Address: 1040 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1040
Physical Address: 4300 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh NC 27607-6465
Phone: (919) 733-2655; FAX: (919) 733-2837

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