soil

Prepare for Spring: Sampling, Mapping, Planning and More!

 

Dr. Jake said it best: “Soil sampling is about tracking where you’re going,” regardless of when or how you sample. Soil sampling procedures look different from farm to farm, and even field to field. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider spring sampling:

Timing Matters

Consistency is key. Depending on your operation, you may sample soil in the fall or the spring. For the most accurate analysis, maintaining that timing is important. If you test in the fall, it is a good idea to continue to test in the fall. However, if there is a need to switch sampling seasons, spring can be advantageous. 

Logistically, having the soil information in hand from a spring sampling gives you ample time to prepare for fall fertilizer applications. By using a spring sampling schedule, you are able to better capture the fertility needs as pricing and contracting become available throughout summer and fall months. Particularly if you're considering a variable rate strategy, this will allow you to build those VRT plans based off of soil fertility recommendations. The benefit to spring sampling is being able to plan better and make more informed decisions instead of the often rushed feeling we get when trying to sample in between harvest and fieldwork in the fall- not to mention throwing the possible rain event in there, as well!  

It’s also important to know that previous crops, like corn, can also leave residue which will continue to deposit potassium into the soil over the winter. This can change your potassium levels from fall to spring and therefore would change the soil analysis over the winter, as well. This is also a good reminder that once you establish a spring sample cycle, maintain it.  

Optimizing Insights

Soil sampling is a fantastic tool to understand your soil health. One specific way to sample soil is with a grid sampling approach. This approach essentially looks at a field and makes a map of that field based on a specific grid. This can be anywhere from 10-acre grid plots down to 1-acre plots, but, most commonly, grid sampling looks at 2.5-acre plots. 

For example, a sample is taken from each 2.5-acre grid section of your field, and upon analysis, gives you a map overview of that field. This map shows a prediction of the strong and weak points of your field, allowing you to customize fertilizer application, targeting the areas that need it most. This can be especially beneficial in fields we have seen historic manure applications made. If we rely on 40 acre composite samples, we might hit a “hot spot” that would cause a misrepresentation of that field’s overall actual soil fertility. Ask your Liqui-Grow Sales Applicator for more information on this! 

While certain soil health components, like pH, may not change drastically from one grid square to the next, nutrients like phosphorus and potassium can. And unless you grid sample, you won’t know if you need variable rate application. 

Think of grid sampling like the saying, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” Grid sampling allows you to identify the weakest links. 

There are many other ways to “skin this cat”, and if you are interested in soil sampling options, and what will benefit your farming operation the most, please reach out to our Liqui-Gow Sales Applicators.

Cost-Effective and Efficient

The fastest way to improve yields and return on investment from your crop is to know your soils across the farm. Variable Rate Application, or VRT, will essentially allow you to do this. We already know that grid sampling gives you a map that pinpoints areas that may need some added nutrients. Using that data, and a few other layers of information, we can create a variable rate fertilizer strategy to meet those fertility needs and improve the farm profitability.

Most of the time, variable rate can be much more cost-effective because you are applying nutrients where you need them, rather than a blanket application across every acre. You have more specific data to create a better fertilizer plan and you have a more specific application process; you’re not buying based on unknowns. 

While this may be a more in-depth process compared to other sampling and application methods, the return on investment with this individualized practice is worth it, in most cases.

Partner with the Experts

Soil sampling, in any form, is a tool designed to help you make the best decisions to improve your yields. In terms of soil sampling, Dr. Jake encourages farmers to ask themselves: “Does this make sense for this field and for my operation?” 

Dr. Jake put this video together on soil sampling, if you have more questions, check it out!
Soil Sampling – Grid Samples vs. Composite Samples. Which is Better?

 

 

With so many tools available, and so many details concerning individual field needs, the Liqui-Grow team is ready to help you make the best choice for your farm. Contact your local Liqui-Grow Sales Applicator to start the sampling process in your fields!

Questions? Give us a shout!

Text us at 564-220-2508 or email questions@liqui-grow.com.