Soil Lab Testing: An Overview

Soil lab testingis the process of testing soil quality using laboratory equipment such as gas chromatographs and purge and trap autosamplers. Soil analysis is performed for various reasons, and falls into two categories:

  • Diagnostic– Analysis performed to identify a problem.
  • Predictive– Analysis performed to check soil quality.

Below are five of the most common reasons for performing soil tests.

To Check for Particulate Matter in a LEZ

The air, water, and soil in Low Emissions Zones (LEZs) are monitored for excess emissions. In some cases, emissions occur in the form of particulate matter that falls from airborne emissions. Depending on the qualities of the particulate matter, an excessive amount of it can pose a threat to plant life, or aquatic life as it washes it into rivers, lakes, and oceans. Emitting too much particulate matter in LEZ zones can also result in stiff fines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

To Check for Contamination after a Brownfield Site Clean Up

Brownfield sites can be heavily contaminated with chemical waste that leads to industrial processes. Before a brownfield site can be repurposed, this contamination must be removed – a process that begins with analyzing the soil to determine the types and degree of contamination it contains.

To Check for VOCs in Farmland

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are naturally occurring compounds that vaporize at room temperature, and can be harmful to plants, animals, and humans. Studying the effect of VOCs on plants can be difficult due to a difference in the concentration between VOCs in the outdoor environment and the concentration of VOCs in a simulated environment. When farmland contains a large concentration of VOCs, however, their effect on plant growth can be noticeably detrimental.

With its ability to detect VOCs that occur at low levels, a purge and trap autosampler is the ideal autosampler for conducting Gas Chromatography (GC) soil lab testing.

To Determine the Acidity of Crop and Lawn Soil

The vitality of crops and other vegetation depends partly on the acidity of the ground where they grow. Acidity testing is perhaps the most common type of predictive soil analysis, and for a good reason: if large quantities of crops, sod, flowers, etc. are planted in earth that contains too much or too little acidity, a significant financial loss can occur.

To Assess the Composition of Soil at Construction Sites

As the Leaning Tower of Pisa demonstrates, the type of soil a building rests on impacts its stability as much as its architectural design does. Ground that contains a diffuse mixture of loose, sandy sediments is not ideal for certain structures. Determining that soil contains these qualities before construction begins can save a contractor his finances and reputation, and potentially save lives.


Soil lab testingis performed to assess the quality of soil for a particular reason. For example, farmland must contain certain nutrients to support plant growth, and the ground at brownfield sites must be cleansed of contamination before the sites can be repurposed. When analysis is performed to detect low-level compounds, a purge and trap autosampler is used.