Don’t Guess, Soil Test
Posted October 15, 2018 by Dani Kusner
Soil testing is an invaluable tool to any farmer or ag business concerned with soil or plant health, both of which directly impact yield. Fall and early winter are the optimum times for soil sampling. Sampling this time of year allows producers to prepare for the following year’s crops. A proper soil test will help to determine the application of fertilizer needed to meet the crops’ requirements while also taking advantage of the nutrients already present in the soil, thus being a very cost effective tool for managing a fertilizer program. In these times of increasing fertilizer prices, a well-executed soil test, interpreted correctly, can be worth its weight in gold.
Producers that are soil health minded will prefer more of a precision ag approach to soil testing. The idea behind precision ag is to sample smaller areas than conventional sampling which allows the division of an area by factors such as soil type, soil fertility, problem areas or yield data. This can also be called sampling by fertility zones. Normally these fertility zones are between five and eight acres and can have independent fertility recommendations varied across the field. When the data is received back from the individual zones, the different recommendations can be uploaded into application equipment with variable rate technology. Variable Rate Technology (or VRT) is the ability to apply nutrients only to areas that the soil test requires, allowing producers to manage soil nutrients more efficiently.
Creating fertility zones allows a producer to begin considering different inputs across the field, based on what will grow and thrive best in his/her particular zones. This can also lead to new ideas for variable seeding and variable nitrogen recommendations. Today, modern ag has the technology and the know-how (such as VRT), to greatly expand our understanding of the soil and how it can best be utilized to provide maximum productivity to the grower.
In conclusion, soil testing is an excellent capacity-building tool for any grower. Sampling provides vital information about your fields. It not only provides information about inputs for this fall, such as phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients, but with technology like VRT, sampling can also take you to the next level for such recommendations as variable rate nitrogen and seeding rates.
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