The main benefit of soil sampling is improved yields and economic return. Soil sampling is the first step in fertilizer management. Taking the time to sample will allow growers to use fertilizer in an efficient manner, saving both time and money.
How to Take Soil Samples
Important: Accurate soil analysis with meaningful interpretation requires properly taken samples. Follow all directions carefully and correctly. Sampling technique presents the greatest chance for errors in results. Laboratory analytic work will not improve the accuracy of a sample that does not represent the area.
Collect samples using chrome plated or stainless-steel sampling tubes or augers. A clean spade or shovel can also be used. Avoid galvanized, bronze or brass tools. Use clean, plastic buckets. Do not use galvanized or rubber buckets, as they will contaminate the samples.
Sampling can take place during any period of the year. However, it is best to sample a field at about the same time of year. Wait a minimum of thirty days to sample after applications of fertilizer, lime, or sulfur.
When taking soil samples you want them to be representative of the area you are treating. Most often, sampling by soil color is an acceptable method for dividing large fields into “like” areas. County ASCS aerial photographs can be used as a guide. Areas that differ in slope, drainage, past treatment, etc. should be sampled separately. Sampling across dissimilar soil types is not recommended. And finally, the sample area should be large enough for special lime or fertilizer treatments.
Always remember to remove any surface debris prior to sampling.
Do Not Sample:
- Dead or back furrows
- Fence rows, old or new
- Old roadbeds, or near limestone gravel roads
- Terrace channels
- Windbreaks or snow fence lines
- Spill areas
- Fertilizer bands including Anhydrous N.
- Unusual or abnormal spots
When pulling samples the depth must remain consistent because many soils are stratified and variation in depth will introduce errors into the analytic results.
Various studies have shown that proper sampling requires at least 10 cores per sample, and sometimes 15 or more cores depending on the nature of the soil and the size of the area being sampled. A smaller number can introduce variability into the results from different sampling years. There is no rule for the number of acres to include in a single sample. This must depend on the local situation. However, the University of Illinois has long recommended that a single sample should represent no more than 5 acres. Very small sampling areas, such as residential landscape plants and some small gardens may use fewer cores per sample.
Allow the soil to dry and then thoroughly mix the randomly taken core samples in a plastic bucket and remove a separate, well-mixed composite sample (½ to 1 pint) from the mixture. Place it into a new plastic sandwich bag. Ensure that all bags are labeled with the correct field name.
When delivering to Belmont Mills the following information will be requested:
• Field Identification
• Number of acres
• The last crop grown
• The crop being planted
• Expected yield
Once the results have been received by Belmont Mills a copy will be shared with the grower, along with a suggested application for each field sampled. At this point, the grower will be able to work with the team at Belmont Mills to create a plan 100% customized to the needs of each field.
Be sure to check out our offerings of fertilizer and lime to help you reach your soil health goals!