Top 5 Reasons You Should be Soil Sampling
We may be a little biased, but we think soil sampling is one of the most important purchases you can make for your farm. With influence on your yields, fertilizer purchases, and long-term stewardship, dollar for dollar, getting high quality soil sampling is one of the best things you can do. So, this week we’ve compiled a list to help convince you. Here are our top 5 reasons to soil sample.
1. Check your account balance. You’ve probably heard this analogy before, but it’s a good one. We can imagine our soil profile like a bank account. Each year we make withdrawals from it, and each year we should be making contributions to it. However, if we aren’t checking our statement (soil sampling) routinely, we don’t know if we have a surplus or have overdrawn that account. It’s very important to keep an eye on that account so we can always have enough to support our growing crops each year.
2. Soil sampling helps us understand limiting factors and antagonisms. Everyone has probably heard of Liebig’s Law of the Minimum. Essentially, the most limiting factor is the one that will cause a yield reduction for your crop. However, if we aren’t sampling regularly, we don’t know which factor is the limiting factor. And don’t forget—that factor might not even be a soil nutrient. It could be your pH! Check out the impact pH has on nutrient availability in Figure 2. Simply by getting our pH right, we make a lot of soil bound nutrients available for crop growth, all without applying any of them as fertilizers. It’s also important to remember nutrients can cause limitations of other nutrients. This antagonism can be better monitored and accounted for when we have a good picture of all the macro and micronutrients at play in our soils.
3. Fertilizer prices aren’t too bad right now. If we look at the general trend across the Midwest we see that overall cost of fertilizer has been trending lower the last couple years. If there was ever a time to do a thorough analysis of the state of your soil and then make a change to it, that time is now. Take advantage of the last few years of prices and get your soils where they need to be. In fact, predictions from a DTN article suggests that since harvest has been delayed across the Midwest as a whole, we are likely to see a larger drop in fertilizer prices since less people have gotten to their fall applications. So, if you are one of the lucky few sitting in a good spot with harvest, make sure you capitalize on some potentially lower prices in the next month or so.
4. Our fields are highly variable. They vary in soil type, topography, past management, and drainage to just name a few. Our ability to quantify that variability is quite a challenge. But one thing we can quantify is the nutrient availability across the field. By grid sampling, you are able to get a dense dataset that shows how nutrients, pH, and OM change across the field. No whole field averages here. Instead, accurate, site specific information that results in more efficient fertilizer placement, better environmental stewardship, and more impactful yield results. Now, who wouldn’t want all that?
5. It’s one of our best strategies for building our long-term plan. By regular soil sampling we have the opportunity to chance a single snapshot of our soil fertility into a moving picture. We are able to see how our soil values change in relation to our last cropping season and weather patterns. And moreover, we also have the ability to take this moving picture and pair it with fertility levels to prep for the future. Looking at past years yield data may allow you to delineate stable yield performance zones across the field. By then layering these yield zones with fertility data from soil sampling we are able to make the most accurate recommendations possible with the option to add in some addition build or maintain goals for your field. It really is the foundation for our long-term productivity and yield goals.
Have we convinced you? We really do believe that this is one of the most critical data layers for your whole growing season. Heck, we will say it---for your multi-year management goals! For your whole operation! Hopefully, you understand a little better the implications of soil sampling. We’d love to talk to you more, so leave a comment below, or get in contact with one of the guys!