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Serving: IN

Soil Testing Practices Vary Across Indiana

Soil Testing Practices Vary Across Indiana
More farmers have soil testing programs than any other modern technology.

Do you prefer sampling by soil type? There are a few ways to do it, but the tools vary throughout Indiana.

Some folks use smartphone apps that can make finding soil types easier, although they are only as good as the maps they are built from. In many cases, those are Natural Resources Conservation Service-derived maps. Regardless, an app can help guide you as to whether you are in the right ballpark on soil type or not.

Others prefer to use GPS and grid sample in grids of various sizes. And some prefer to use a combination of sampling by soil type and using grids so they can come beat to the same location the next time they sample.

Consultants offer varied package: Danny Greene, Franklin, of Greene Ag Consulting, started out primarily doing soil testing. Today the certified crop adviser also pulls tissue samples, stalk N tests, and does other jobs. Soil testing remains a big part of his business, however.

A survey of nearly 70 Indiana Master Farmers, about half of the group still living and farming, say either sampling by 2.5 acre grids or sampling by soil type are the most common methods.

On about 42% of the farms, whoever samples soil does it by 2.5 acre grids. One operation uses one-acre grids. Another 37% sample by soil type. About 10% actually use some combination of soil type and grid sampling.

Given a list of about 30 newer technologies, from auto-steering to tissue sampling, soil testing topped the list. About 85% of the respondents say they have some sort of routine soil sampling program on their farm.

The person responsible for pulling samples also varies. Five out of 10 farms are using independent consultants to take soil samples. Many of these same consultants then work with the farms on soil test recommendations. Another 35%, just over one in three, rely on their fertilizer dealer to pull samples. Only about 14% either pull the samples themselves or hire a farm employee to pull the samples.

There is also a lot of variability on how often soils are tested. A couple of respondents say they test every field every year. However, testing every two, three or four years were fairly even at 30%, 34% and 30%, respectively.

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