Talk to us!
Hello, we are the scientific
team at Smart Fertilizer
How can we help you?
I have a question!
If you need agronomist consultation,
please visit our knowledge hub forum
Create a topic with your question
and team of our lead agronomists
will provide you with expert advice.

How can we call you?
Please sign up to explore our
articles and get your
lifetime access For Free
(Enter the same email if you have already registered Smart Fertilizer Knowledge Hub)
Plant Nutrition Experts Community
By subscribing to the newsletter you agree with Privacy Policy & Terms and Conditions

Understanding PPM in soil

The numbers on the soil test reports may be expressed in different units. Many times, even the same lab expresses different elements in different units.

PPM is one of the most common units on soil test reports. What does ppm stand for and how can we estimate the actual amount of the tested element in the soil?

PPM – stands for Parts per Million, or the ratio 1/1000000

PPM is used to measure low concentrations in aqueous solutions or in soil. In solutions, ppm refers to mg/liter or grams/m3. Note that it represents a ratio of mass to volume. This can be done because the mass of water is the same as its volume (in Metric units).

In the soil test report, ppm usually stands for mg/kg, so that 1 ppm = 1 mg/kg

However, many labs use soil extracts, like saturated paste, 1:2 extract etc. In such cases, the ppm level stands for mg/liter in the soil extract.

To convert ppm of a nutrient (mass/mass as in mg/kg) to an actual amount, in kilograms or pounds, we must have three other parameters known:

  • The area for which we want to calculate the nutrient amount;
  • The bulk density of the soil. Bulk density is defined as the dry weight of soil per unit volume of soil. Most soils have a bulk density of 1.1-1.6 ton/m3;
  • And the layer depth for which we want to calculate.


Easily create your fertilization plan with our software
Start Using and Increase Your Harvest up to 40%
Create your plan


How many kilograms of available potassium are there in a 30 cm (12 inch) layer of one hectare (2.47 acre) plot, if the soil test report shows a level of 10 ppm of potassium? The bulk density of the soil is 1.2 ton/m2.


What is the amount of available potassium in this soil layer, if the soil test level is 10 ppm?

If you are used to work with US or imperial units, it is advised to convert some measure to metric units, for ease of calculation.

US units

Metric Units

1 pound

0.453 kg

1 acre

4046.86 sqm (m2)

1 inch

0.0254 meters

Since 10 ppm are 10 mg/kg, we should first know the mass of this layer of soil.

1 ha = 10,000 m2

The layer depth is 0.3m, therefore the volume of the soil layer is:

10,000 X 0.3 = 3000 m3 (cubic meters)

Once we know the volume, we can calculate the mass of this soil layer, multiplying the mass by the Bulk Density of the soil:

3000 m3 X 1.2 ton/m3 = 3600 tons (3968 short tons)

Now, the amount of potassium in the soil can be calculated, using the definition for ppm.

]1ppm = 1 mg/kg.

3600 tons = 3600000 kg

We have 10 mg of potassium per kilogram of soil and therefore:

3600000 X 10 = 36000000 mg = 36 kg (79.3 lbs)

Therefore, we have 36 kg of potassium in our 1ha plot and layer depth of depth of 30cm

Theoretically, a crop that grows on this plot and has its active root system at the top 30 cm layer will have 36 kg of available potassium.


  • Recommends the ideal fertilizer mixture/ blends
  • Saves up to 50% on fertilizer costs
  • Comprehensive data on hundreds of crop varieties
  • Interprets test results for any extraction method

Try Our Software Now