From Farm Talk Newspaper

When looking at common practices in agriculture, soil testing is nothing new.

According to Brie Menjoulet, agronomy specialist with the University of Missouri, soil sampling is just a matter of getting back to the basics.

Menjoulet, who is based out of Hermitage, was speaking to producers at the recent Webster County Soils and Crops Conference in Marshfield. Soil sampling allows producers to find out nutrient needs as well as deficiencies and surpluses.

The upside to sampling, she said, is finding out exactly what the nutrient content of the soil is.

On the flip side, although soil sampling offers a lot of information, it is only as good as the process in which it is done.

“There is a lot to consider when taking a quality sample,” she explained.

Samples vary according to soil types, the history of the soil, how it was fertilized and/or limed in the past, and topography.

For best results Menjoulet recommended that producers be consistent.

“Take soil samples every three to five years,” she said. “Take them more often if there has been an extreme change in management on a particular piece of land.”

She also emphasized the importance of taking soil samples at the same time every year.

“You need to also be consistent with the depth of soil you are taking for your sample,” Menjoulet said.

She cautioned producers about taking samples after manure or fertilizer had been applied.

Soil testing equipment, consisting of soil probes, augers or drill-type augers, are typically available for use from local Extension offices. Menjoulet recommended after acquiring a soil probe, producers need a plastic bucket and a plan.

“When soil sampling the best practice is to zig-zag across the pasture taking 15-20 samples per 20 acres,” she explained. “The more samples you take the more accurate the results will be.”

After taking samples she recommends putting them in a bucket and mixing them up thoroughly.

“Those samples can then be taken to your local Extension office to be sent off for evaluation,” she explained.

According to her, it takes about two weeks before they come back ready to read.

“When the sample comes back it is going to tell you the pH, phosphorous, potassium, calcium and magnesium content in your soil,” she said.

Each of the nutrients will have a range from low to excessive and the local Extension agent can help landowners determine what should be done next.

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