As we near the end of this year’s farming season, it is important to consider good farm management practices as we prepare for next year’s crops. One of those practices is collecting soil samples. Collecting soil samples is the first step in planning an economical and environmentally sound fertilization program. The efficient use of nutrients can help reduce fertilizer costs and environmental concerns without reducing yield or quality. This requires a well-planned fertilization program based on soil sampling, wise selection of nutrients based on needs and costs and proper application of fertilizers.
Taking good samples, filling out paperwork properly, and packaging samples for delivery in a well-organized manner are important. For best results, use the following guidelines.
1. For conventional crops, collect soil samples to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. For no-till crops or establishing crops, such as pastures or orchards, samples need to be only 4 inches deep.
2. Use a soil probe and a plastic bucket.
3. Mix soil cores in a bucket, then fill a standard soil box to the indicated line.
4. Avoid taking samples when soil is wet.
5. Use permanent ink to fill out the information on the box.
Collect samples three to six months before planting time. This will give you time to have the test report in time to plan your liming and fertilization program before the busy planting season. Persons should test their soils every two to three years because the sandy soils in this region do not hold nutrients as long as soils in the other parts of the state and are more apt to become acid through the addition of nitrogen. Boxes and forms are available at your local county extension center. If you need assistance in interpreting the soil test results or developing a soil treatment plan, contact the local extension center.