Taking the guesswork out of soil sampling

By Evan Delk, CCA, vice president of sales and marketing for Integrated Ag Services

One of the top ways to combat record fertilizer prices is to utilize soil sampling to know what’s in your fields. Soil sampling sets the FOUNDATION for EVERYTHING you do on your farm. If you take care of the soil, the soil will take care of your crop.

While good soil conservation practices are critical to successful farming, not all soil sampling is created equal. HD Soil Sampling, or high-density soil sampling, is any grid soil sample density under 1-acre grids. Those who have implemented HD Soil Sampling on their farms are surpassing record-breaking yields. 

Cultivating the ideal soil comes down to Liebig’s law of the minimum. A principle developed in agricultural science by Carl Sprengel and later popularized by Justus von Liebig, it states that “if one of the essential plant nutrients is deficient, plant growth will be poor even when all other essential nutrients are abundant.” 

When you set a good soil fertility foundation, the yield limitations are endless. I have witnessed farmers trying the latest new product to reach that next level of yield, and they often do not see the results. Why? The most common reason is they skipped the basics, and there were other staves in the barrel that needed to be plugged first, like soil fertility.  

Grid soil sampling is simply “guessing.” The more technical term is “interpolating” from soil test point to soil test point to determine what the levels are in that given part of the field. Essentially, the soil test points where the samples were collected create the nutrient zones recorded in your soil sample booklets.

There are tremendous amounts of nutrient variability in our soils. Using a football field as an example, if a soil sample is taken every 10 yards across the field, drastically different nutrient values will be found at each 10-yard line.

The only way to combat this variability in our soil is to take more soil samples. The efficiency and accuracy of HD Soil Sampling can help identify the most profitable soil fertility programs to implement. The image below represents half-acre, 1-acre, and 2.5-acre grid sampling methods. On a 2.5-acre grid, a sample is pulled every 330 feet compared to a half-acre grid where a sample is drawn every 150 feet. 

As detailed in the chart, HD Soil Sampling simply does a better job of “guessing” from soil test point to soil test point, ultimately providing the clearest and most accurate picture of what’s going on in your soil to guide variable rate technology and set the best FOUNDATION for your crops to yield. 

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