Base Saturation & CEC in Soil Sampling


Interpreting soil tests correctly is critical to understanding your soil. CEC and Base Saturation are two of the more complex results to interpret from a soil test. CEC stands for cation exchange capacity. On a soil test, it is the estimate of the soils ability to attract, retain, and exchange cation elements (ammonium, potassium, calcium, etc.). High CEC soils indicate the soil has a greater capacity to hold cations, meaning the soil will require higher rates of fertilizer, but will also offer large nutrient reserves. Low CEC soils are susceptible to leaching.

Base Saturation refers to a measurement of the percent of the soil CEC that is occupied by a particular group of nutrients (Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium). Base saturation is another tool to predict the soils ability to provide adequate crop nutrients and indicate adjustments needed to fertility programs. The table below show optimum base saturation readings.

Soil CEC% K% Ca% Mg


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