Due to extended periods of rainy weather in the Midwest, fall field activities were cut short. One of those activities was soil sampling. As you wait for the last bit of snow to melt, here are four things to consider when you are planning to take spring soil samples:
1. Get Your Resources In Order
If you are taking samples yourself, make sure you have a plan so that you can sample as efficiently as possible. Getting tillage, nutrient application, and planting finished are the highest priority. Being prepared to soil sample when time allows is important and planning is key. If someone else is taking your samples, communicate with them soon to discuss your sampling needs. Due to the wet fall, soil samplers will be very busy as well.
2. Keep It Consistent
In order to track progress over time, it’s important to keep the sampling process consistent each time you take samples. We recommend you keep the following factors consistent:
· Timing: It’s best to sample at the same time of year each time you sample. This is the most challenging factor to keep consistent as you can’t plan for weather. Sampling at the same time each season minimizes the potential bias caused by nutrient fluctuations over the course of a single season.
· Location: Select sampling areas that are representative of your farm and continue to sample those same areas each time.
· Process: Plan to take the same number of cores at the same depth each time. Due to nutrient stratification and fertilizer recommendations, it is important to always sample at the same depth.
· Lab: Labs vary slightly even though they may use the same methods, so it’s best practice to use the same lab each time. Make sure when selecting a test package to select the same tests each time you sample. This ensures your year-over-year comparisons are consistent.
3. Weigh The Cost And Benefit
Soil testing will likely reveal problem acres. It’s important to weigh the cost-benefit associated with addressing those problems. With the current price of grain and rising fertilizer costs, it’s important to make sure you are getting a good return on investment for your fertilizer dollars. This is also a good time to remember that adjusting your pH by liming is the best money you can spend when it comes to fertility!
4. Track Results
Tracking your results year-over-year gives you the ability to analyze trends and benchmark progress. Using farm mapping software will help you visually see the changes and easily find trends. Do you have fields with really high levels of a nutrient or really low levels? What is causing those levels? As we strive to figure out the yield-limiting factor for each part of the field, good soil test data over time might help you solve some of those issues. It is much easier to manage things when we measure them!
We hope you found these tips helpful! Soil testing results are a powerful tool in decision making. If you are interested in biological testing, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org