With my boots swinging off the bed of the truck, I fondly remember the evenings when Dad and I drove across the field collecting soil samples. He’d jump off the tailgate, collect a sample, throw it into a bucket, and then we would continue on.
Today, I still collect soil samples every couple of years; however, the planning and process of it has gotten much more strategic and detailed. With the increased focus on soil health and water quality in recent years, it has become even more important to do it right.
Here are a few tips for successful soil testing:
- Standardize your testing. OSU extension recommends pulling soil tests a minimum of every three to four years in either the spring or fall. Be consistent with your season to gather the most accurate results.
- When reading your soil test, know what unit the lab is reporting in. If you need to convert units, double parts per million to convert to pounds per acre.
- Work to maintain sufficient nutrient ranges for maximum yield. Refer to the Tri-State Recommendations for ranges that are appropriate for your soil type.
- Ideal sampling depth is 6 – 8 inches. Most of the nutrients are in the top 2 – 3 inches, so when you only sample the top soil, your results will be skewed and won’t represent true nutrient levels.
- Scrape off any residue before you take your sample. You only want to send soil to the lab.
The time and financial investment in soil testing can appear to be a hassle, but in the end it is important to know where additional nutrients are or are not needed. This is a key part of Ohio farmers’ goal of achieving maximum yields with minimum risk of nutrient runoff.
If you haven’t tested your soil recently, I encourage you to schedule a date this fall or next spring to do so. It’s an investment in the future of your land, your crops and clean water.
Also, I hope you continue to share your photos and tweets about why water quality and soil testing matters to you via #whywatermatters.
Shelby County Farmer