How to Properly Collect Soil Samples in Your Fields
Data is a powerful tool—especially when it comes to seeing the proof of the investment you are making in your crops and when determining what investments to make.
Soil testing is a resource that can benefit all growers. With programs like Agronomy 365 and BaselineRx, you can stop questioning and start growing. Soil sample analysis gives you real-time insight into the health of your soil and helps predict the health of the crops that will grow within it.
Soil and tissue sampling empowers you to:
Understand the nutrient levels of your soil and plants
Make nutrient management decisions accordingly
See the results
Testing your soil before the season starts gives you a head start on reaping these benefits—identifying and treating nutrient deficiencies in the soil before they turn into nutrient deficiencies in the plant.
To ensure maximum effectiveness of your soil sample analysis, the first step is making sure you are properly collecting soil samples in your fields. Here’s how:
Step 1: Get the proper soil sampling tools
The basic soil sampling equipment you need are simply a clean plastic bucket and a stainless steel soil sampling probe. For more difficult soil sampling conditions, you may need a vehicle-mounted hydraulic probe. Although, if you have access to a vehicle-mounted probe, nothing’s stopping you from using it and saving some manual labor—even if your sampling conditions aren’t so bad.
A few other items that will come in handy include:
1 or 2 plastic sample buckets
Shovel or spade
Markers for identifying samples on sample bags
All of these tools should be clean, rust-free and stored away from fertilizer materials. Sampling equipment should not be galvanized or brass of any kind, as that contaminates the samples with micronutrients and renders your test results inaccurate.
Step 2: Prepare to collect soil samples
Sampling protocol varies by each lab, but when sampling with Agronomy 365, you will collect one sample from inside the furrow and three from outside the furrow—which should then be mixed thoroughly in a clean plastic container. However, if you band most of your nitrogen or fertility needs, you’ll collect three in-furrow samples and one outside the furrow.
You will divide your fields into zones based on landscape or other environmental differences to get a full picture of your soil’s health. These differences may include soil type, slope, degree of erosion, drainage, crop and/or manure history and more.
You will also collect samples at varying depths for the same reason. Most soils are typically sampled in six-inch intervals, as these zones within the soil have unique nutrient activity and functions.
We encourage you to work with the team of agronomists at BW Fusion and Agronomy 365 to determine the best sample collection plan for your specific field conditions and needs.
Step 3: Collect and submit soil samples
When the time comes to get out in the field and collect soil samples, specific instructions vary by each lab, but there are some general considerations that all growers should keep in mind.
Samples should be dried before being sent to a lab. To dry out moist soils, simply spread the sample out on paper and give it time to air dry naturally at room temperature. Do not use an oven to dry soil samples.
Additionally, make sure your soil samples are properly identified (especially as you remove soil from the sample bag and spread it out to dry). Each sample should have an accompanying sample information sheet with details about the sample location, crop and management history, proposed crops and a list of tests required.
Once you’ve collected the samples with your stainless steel probe at each required depth and zone, given them time to dry and filled out all necessary paperwork, you’re ready to send in your samples and see your results.
We know the importance of soil and tissue sampling, and we want to make sure you have accurate results and can make management decisions accordingly. Get in touch with us or the Agronomy 365 team for help understanding your soil analysis reports and identifying the right products to help support your soil and plant health.