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What sort of equipment would one need to ensure that plant soil contains the right concentration of the 13 mineral nutrients necessary for plant growth? Specifically, can this be measured in real-time without involving sending samples to a lab?

As far I understand, it's vital that all the following elements are present: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, copper, iron, chloride, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.

It seems like simply measuring pH gives only a rough estimate and is not a very precise indicator of the various element levels.

  • It depends: what you want to grow determines what you need in the soil. Indoors or outdoors? – kevinsky Jan 24 '15 at 15:44
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    The easy answer would be to send in a sample to a lab that already has the equipment (and experience), rather than buying the expensive equipment yourself. I do this all the time, and it's really very handy. – J. Musser Jan 24 '15 at 22:42
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    Equipment for such is typically pricey, tens of thousands of dollars. One of these rigakuedxrf.com/edxrf/… should get you most of what you want, but there are other pricey options as well. All equipment looks to be of the "ask for a quote" variety. – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 25 '15 at 16:14
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Okay to get right to it, no, most of those listed nutrients aren't practical to test for at home.

That said, you can get test kits, for basic info about levels of N,P,K, and pH, but they will not cover all the other elements you were asking about. Basically, if you want to do that yourself, you'll have to actually build yourself a lab. It would be expensive, and each test will still end up being more of a hassle than simply paying someone else who is already set up, and experienced.

In other words, I strongly recommend that you have professionals conduct these tests for you, rather than trying to do it yourself.

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