“At the peak of the season we’ll test 20,000 samples each day,” says Kennard Pohlman of Omaha’s Midwest Labs. “We always test the organic matter in the sample and the pH. You want to verify the nitrogen carryover and the level of phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and zinc. I can almost tell you, by looking at the soil sample results, what the farmer has been doing in the past and how good the farm is. That’s how much information is available in a soil sample.”
Grid sampling is Oldham’s specialty and he said a growing number of producers, especially those growing corn, are realizing the benefit of managing input costs and improving yields by testing their soil quality in single or multiple-acre grids.
“Sometimes producers believe the cost of sampling is greater than the cost savings or increased yield they see,” Oldham said. “Actually, the investment in the sampling analysis generally isn’t even recognizable in contrast to the combination of savings on inputs and the increased yield. If you’re analyzing just a few samples from your field, you obtain information about the averages in soil quality for that field. Getting samples from every 2.5 acres or less really allows you to combine that information with a variable rate prescription that allows for the best management of inputs and maximizes yield.”
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