Get Ready for Intensive Soil Sampling

Get Ready for Intensive Soil Sampling

Newer technologies will increase samples, improve data collection and save farmers money.

(Used by permission – written by Jim Ruen)

 – Excerpt –

Soil analysis is is on the edge of a paradigm shift, and the ag retailer or crop consultant who doesn’t make t he jump may be left behind One look at the problems and opportunities facing crop producers, and it is clear the shift can’t come soon enough. The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit over nitrates, regulatory concern over phosphorus (P) in Lake Erie and other waters and grower efforts to fine-tune inputs are all indicators that change needs to happen.

“Until a few years ago, soil was just a medium for nutrients and seed,” said Ben Elliott, Cardinal Ag Services. “Today, it is essential to look at soils every year or two. With lawsuits in Iowa and EPA concerns, we need to understand to the nth degree what can be applied.”

Elliott also pointed to how quickly today’s new products can manipulate soils and plant chemistry. He warns that if you’re not watching changes occurring in the soil, you can run into problems that will set the field back  as much as five years. He noted that growers are intensifying management more than ever before and employing precision technologies with sub-inch accuracy. Meanwhile, the industry and growers continue to rely on soil sampling technology more than half a century old and soils data nearly that old.

If out-dated technology wasn’t bad enough, even worse is its accuracy, suggested Frank Moore, Three River s Ag Consulting. “Our local soils were mapped in the 1960’s, and the survey was published in 1974,” he said, “Soil type boundaries were based on a few soil samples in fields and on aerial images. I feel actual soil type’ boundaries can be off as much as 200 ft.”

The problem is compounded by sample collection, noted Moore, who also farms 2,000 acres in northeast Iowa. “Most universities recommend 10 to 15 cores per sample, but most guys I know pull five to seven, and I’ve had retailers admit they have no idea where their interns sampled or if they sampled correctly.” he said,. “We now know that in the case of P, we need 36 cores per sample to be relevant. If you run five or six, you might as well make up a number.”


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