It’s been more than 30 years since the soils at Sanborn Field were studied, but Tim Reinbott made it happen last November.
Reinbott secured financing and put together a team of partners who removed the cores in November.
“Long-term research of this nature is really important, as it gives us some really good insights into soil changes over an extended period of time,” says Reinbott, who is the assistant director of the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Agricultural Experiment Station.
Along with the traditional soil analysis that's happened about every 25 years since 1915, Reinbott plans to do something new with the cores removed in 2020 — they will run a soil health analysis.
“Traditionally, we take cores from each plot at Sanborn Field, with a total of 162 cores throughout the entire field,” Reinbott says. “This year, we doubled the amount of cores, giving us 324, with half of them being used for our usual analysis and half being used for health analysis.”
Probes went down 4 feet to extract each core. The cores were taken from at the same locations identified in 1963 — and extra cores from the edge of the plots are used to refill the original plots.
“We do all of the measurements from the interior of the plots,” Reinbott says. “We refill those plots because we can’t have a bunch of holes in the middle of our plots that could change the water hydraulics.”
In the past, Reinbott explains, pulling soil samples took weeks. However, with help from the MU School of Natural Resources, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the task took only three days.
Waiting on results
The soil cores for the traditional analysis are at the Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory, while the cores for the soil health analysis are with the Soil Health Assessment Center.
“I’m really excited to see what our results show, especially on the soil health side,” Reinbott says. “Having brand-new information and data is great, considering Sanborn has been around for more than 130 years.”
Reinbott says they are freezing samples for future use, as well.
“I’m sure there are some measurements that we don’t even know about,” Reinbott says. “That’s why we decided to freeze some samples for future analysis. If there are some measurements that we learn about at a later date, we can use these frozen samples.”
Sanborn Field was established in 1888 by Dean J.W. Sanborn, who used it to demonstrate the value of crop rotations and manure in grain crop production.
It is the oldest, continuous experimental field west of the Mississippi River, and the third-oldest in the world.