Soil sampling is one of the most important tests a farmer needs to do in order to ensure efficient use of lime and fertilizer. This is something that is done by lawn care professionals, gardeners, consultants, landscapers and fertilizer suppliers. The end result is higher crop yield, high-quality crops and efficient use of fertilizer. The whole purpose of soil sampling is to determine soil fertility before planting your crops. The main challenge, however, in soil testing is representing the desired area of soil accurately. If soil is not taken from every part of the field, the laboratory tests will be inconclusive. This is why every farmer needs to invest in a good soil sampler and cover the entire field during sampling.
Soil sampling is the best management practice for farmers. Learning more about your soil will help you know what needs to be done to improve the next yield and which areas need more fertilizer and lime. Soil tests will help you understand the nutrient deficiencies that exist. But how is the whole process handled?
The main objective of soil sampling is to provide a representative sample of the field’s fertility. The total number of samples needed vary depending on the size of the field. If the soil is similar in slope, texture and previous crop as well as production practices, the number of samples per acre will increase. If the soil is variable, different areas have to be sampled separately.
The best thing today is that you don’t necessarily need to take the samples to a local laboratory that may be located miles away. There are advanced equipment available. They include the automatic soil sampler. You can test the soil yourself. You just need to get the sampler that is right for you.
Getting more data on your soil will help prepare for the next yield. The more data you have the more prepared you will be when getting your field ready. The main data that is collected include the following:
- Organic matter – This is basically the measurement of animal and plant residue in the soil. This acts as the reserve for nutrients in the soil.
- Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) – This is the ability of the soil to hold the cationic nutrients. During sampling, this is also used as the indicator of the soil texture.
- Soil pH – This is the measure of alkalinity or acidity of the soil. The pH levels can affect the availability of the nutrients.
- Nitrate-N – This is the amount of water-soluble nitrogen that is available for the plants. The findings here will help determine the nitrogen needs.
- Extractable Macro and Micro Nutrients – This is data on the nutrients that are available to plants. This is recorded in parts per million. The findings help determine the nutrient applications that are needed by crops to produce the optimal economic yield.
Soil sampling calls for the use of the right equipment, testing the right number of samples and searching for the right results. The best time for soil sampling is in late fall and early winter.