Know Your Soil

Small grains harvest has wrapped up, and soybean harvest is getting started - that means fall soil testing is well underway in many parts of Agtegra country. Soil testing can be very beneficial as plan for the 2019 growing season.
 
“Soil testing is a best practice that all farmers should seriously consider, if you’re not doing so already,” says Todd Peterson, Agronomy Tech Sales Lead with Agtegra.
 
The best time to collect soil samples is after harvest and before any fall tillage occurs. This timing is ideal because:
 

  • An intact soil profile ensures better soil sample depth control.
  • More consistent soil test results for phosphorus, potassium, zinc, etc.
  • Early soil sampling shows you how much nitrogen is available for next year’s crop.
  • Having soil test information for next year is invaluable, and weather changes quickly in the fall. You may not be able to get back in the field to collect soil samples later in the season.

 
“Right after harvest is the perfect time to get out in the field and take soil samples,” Peterson adds. “The ground is still soft, there is no crop in the way, and you can see what nutrients you’ve got to work with for next year.”
 
 
Most soil samples are annually tested for residual nitrates, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur, but make sure your soil test results provide the right information you need to make fertilizer decisions, especially for crop-specific nutrients.
 
“Ask your Agtegra agronomist to check for certain nutrients when submitting the soil samples,” Peterson says. “If you’re not sure what specific nutrients the soil testing should look for, your agronomist can help.”
 
 
 
Specific soil tests can help identify information for certain scenarios. For example, if you’re planning to grow soybeans next year, you’ll want to test soluble salts and carbonate to determine the risk of iron deficiency chlorosis. If you plan to grow corn, dry beans or flax, your soil testing should examine zinc levels, as these three crops are sensitive to zinc. Small grains may struggle with copper levels in soils with low organic matter or that are coarse textured, such as sandy loam and peat soils. Small grains may also benefit from chloride application. Soil testing can help you identify what, if anything, needs to be done to prepare your soil for growing these valuable crops next year.
 
“We get to harvest, and it’s so tempting to take a deep breath and think, ‘Whew, this growing season is done.’ But the ending of one growing season is the beginning of the next growing season, and that means we need to start getting ready now for next year,” says Peterson.
 
The investment on soil sampling is small compared to the decisions you’ll be able to make regarding crop choice and fertilizer inputs needed for each field. Any fields that will be growing crops requiring nitrogen, such as corn or small grains, should be soil tested to determine how much fertilizer will be needed.
 
“Being precise about the amounts of fertilizer that are applied can make a difference in your input costs, and ultimately, your bottom line,” Peterson says.