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With temperatures slowly increasing throughout the Midwest, farmers are starting to prepare themselves for the upcoming growing season.  One of the most important aspects to field preparation is knowing your soil conditions.  If you missed out on fall soil sampling, now is the perfect time to complete this task before planting.  This not only fine tunes your fertilizer plan, but it can dramatically impact your bottom line by providing the crop with the right amount of nutrients.

There are a couple of options for collecting soil samples in the field.  You can seek out an agronomist or third party to do the soil sampling for you (usually a per acre charge).  Or you can learn how to do this step yourself.  Collecting soil samples can be easy and fun, but it is wise to do your research before venturing to the field.  Help can be found by viewing “how to” videos on YouTube or by visiting your local agronomist.  Also, utilizing the Farm Works™ Mobile software can simplify the process of geo-referencing your sample locations.  GPS allows you to find the same locations in the future so that you can do historical comparisons.

Once you collect your samples, you are ready for the final step.  This involves shipping your collected samples to a soils lab.  The lab will provide you the data for each field in a text file such as a .csv.  This data can easily be imported into Farm Works Mapping so that the results flow to each point or zone.  This data can be analyzed by you or your agronomist so that each field has the right amount of fertilizer applied to it.

We asked Chris Eschhofen of Eschhofen Systems to give us some quick tips in soil sampling.  His company samples thousands of acres in Northwest Ohio while providing consulting services from the collected data.  Chris utilizes the Farm Works Mobile software and the rugged Yuma® computer.  One of the reasons he has enjoyed the Yuma was due to the ruggedness and large screen – two features that are very important in terms of outside use. 


Chris’s Top 10 Tips to Soil Sampling

  1. Collect samples three to six months prior to planting. Plan ahead for collecting data. This will give you or your consultant time to make sound business decisions from the data.
  2. Do not sample if the soil is excessively wet.  If it’s too wet to till, it’s too wet to sample.
  3. Fields need to be sampled at least every other year so that nutrient variations can easily be tracked. As you make changes to your management system, these need to be monitored.
  4. Use clean equipment to avoid contamination.
  5. Use a soil probe or auger to collect samples. We prefer an auger as it give consistent depth control of your samples.  Do not use brass, bronze, or galvanized tools because they will contaminate samples with copper and/or zinc.
  6. Try to sample in the same location as previous years.  This can easily be done by using Farm Works Mobile software with a GPS enabled field computer.
  7. Depth of soil sample should be consistent year after year.  For example, 0-8 inches would undergo a complete nutrient analysis while 8-24 inches will analyze nitrogen only.
  8. Choose the same reputable lab year after year to keep consistency in your history.
  9. Use more than one year’s of data to make recommendation.
  10. Go with an expert to do your soil sampling if you have doubts in doing it yourself. 

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