Sharp tile probes won't even do in the ground 4 inches in areas where adequate rains haven't fallen yet in Indiana. If they do, they hit layers that make it sound like they're hitting tile. Thankfully, you won't find any tile at 4 inches deep. Soil probes are even tougher to get in areas where it hasn't rained. So despite a beautiful fall with an unprecedented number of working days in the field, many soil consultants are behind on taking samples. Some simply aren't pulling samples until and unless soils get moistened up this fall.
Betsy Bower, an Indiana Certified Crop Agronomist and an agronomist with Ceres Solutions, Terre Haute, has handled several questions from farmers abut soil testing. In fact, Ceres elected to send a letter to farmer customers with their best advice on how to handle this situation.
"One common question is if I go ahead and apply fertilizer now while it's dry, can I then take soil samples once it does rain, maybe later this fall?" she notes. "We really don't recommend that procedure. The soil test will pick up part of the soil fertility from the fertilizer that was applied, and you won't have an accurate test. We think you're better off to wait a year to sample if you've already applied fertilizer."
Many of the farmers Bowers works with have Ceres sampling their fields on a four-year rotation. Some are asking that if samples don't get pulled this fall, should they just wait another four years. "That's not a good idea, either," she says," Another four years would mean eight years between samples, and that's a long time to wait, especially on pH. That's why we're saying that if necessary, we just push back a year and sample fields that were supposed to get samples this fall next fall.."
Some also wonder if they can wait and just have the soil sampled in the spring. "We can do that without a problem," she says. "But the catch is that if we switch to spring sampling, then we should stay with spring sampling on that farm after that. There are differences in some nutrients in readings between spring and fall. To make valid comparisons, we need samples that are pulled at the same time of year. So we would just switch to spring sampling."