Fall is the time to lay the groundwork for next season. Soil sampling and testing are important steps. But to achieve an accurate fertility profile for your fields, you need to pull soil samples correctly.

Each crop year, unique weather and growing conditions impact fertility. During the growing season, yields will affect how many nutrients were removed by your crops. This year’s flooded fields and wet, saturated soils make fertility levels even less predictable.

Penn State Extension specialists say a soil test is the only way to formulate a fertility recommendation and implementation plan.1 But as Colorado State University Extension soil specialists note, a quality fertilizer recommendation depends on a quality soil sample.2 Whether you pull your own samples or work with your local co-op or an independent crop consultant, CSU experts offer these soil-sampling reminders:

  • A composite soil sample should represent a uniform field area.
  • Use a systematic sampling scheme, and a minimum of 15 subsamples throughout the field, regardless of acreage.
  • Sampling depth depends on the crop and the tillage depth.
  • Sample most fields every year for nitrate analyses.
  • Thoroughly air dry all soil samples within 12 hours after sampling.

Nutrient application timing can vary, depending on your region and individual situation. Completing your soil sampling and analysis as soon as possible gives you the flexibility to make fall, spring or split-season applications. Testing also can help you target fall and winter manure placement. Turn to your county Extension agent or crop consultant for nutrient timing guidance specific to your area.

Nitrogen often costs less during the fall, which helps make anhydrous ammonia a popular fall N source once soils cool in Northern states. Talk with your Case IH dealer about how their rugged, heavy-duty Nutri-Tiller strip-till system and Nutri-Placer fertilizer applicator can help you precisely apply anhydrous ammonia this fall.

Meanwhile, complete the most important step: determining a fertility benchmark for your fields. Many county Extension offices offer low-cost soil test kits. Or work with your co-op, agronomist or crop consultant to schedule soil sampling for your fields. The knowledge you gain can help you make more efficient use of your fertilizer investment.


RESOURCES

1Beegle D. Fall Soil Testing. Penn State Extension website. http://extension.psu.edu/plants/crops/news/2012/10/fall-soil-testing. Accessed September 28, 2015.

2Self J. & Soltanpour P. Soil Sampling. Colorado State University Extension website. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/PUBS/crops/00500.html. Accessed September 28, 2015.