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Merits of Soil Sampling

May 17, 2021

By Blake Groeneweg, CFE Precision Ag Lead

Soil sampling is one of the most profitable management practices a farmer can implement on the farm. Universities have proven this time and time again that soil sampling has up to an 80% chance of increasing yield if fertility levels are deficient. Even though this is proven data, we still only have about a 50% adoption rate of soil sampling on the farm. 


Soil Samples

Always collect a good soil sample. The information coming from this sample is only as good as the person taking it and the collection methods used. At CFE we provide a soil sampling service, and our team of specialists are professionals at collecting quality samples. Already sampled once with CFE? The second round of sampling is even better. We use the same grid pattern from the first sampling. The soil samples are pulled from the same spot the original soil was pulled from 4 years earlier. This greatly improves the accuracy of the information the sample is providing and how much it has improved over time. The method of pulling the samples is just as important as the soil test. 


Soil Test Information

One of the first things done on a soil sample is test the pH of the soil. This is important for the lab as much as it is for the grower. Dealing with high or low pH levels can help the farmer determine which management practices need to be implemented on the farm. Low pH levels are relatively easy to fix by just adding lime. This will also increase your base saturation levels of calcium to get a healthier balanced soil. High pH however is more difficult to manage. Talk to your local Agronomist on how to manage high pH levels.

Phosphorus and Potassium are the 2 major proven nutrients we need to be sampling. The chart below from ISU shows the chances of getting a yield increase when soil test levels are in the current ranges.

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Like I said before, making sure your field is not in the low or very low ranges gives you a 65% or greater probability of yield increase. It is one of the easiest things to do to increase yield.
 
 ISU has the fertility ranges described in the PM1688 publication for phosphorus and potassium below.

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If either of those nutrients are low, your greatest return will be to fix the fertility in that area. Build the whole field into the optimum/high range to get max yield. Variable rate your fertilizer to get the best return on investment from your fertilizer application. Below is a chart that explains a fertility philosophy.

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Building fertility into the economic optimum yield zone is the best place to be as it is a balance of fertility and profitability and getting maximum yield without over fertilizing. The expensive part is building those low areas. It can take a lot of fertilizer to move the sample into the optimum range. When you are already in the optimum range it does not cost as much to stay in the range. Just make sure your crop removal levels are where they need to be. One of the newer offerings CFE has is crop removal fertilizer application using yield maps.

Reach out to your local CFE Agronomist for more information on soil sampling.


 


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