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Wow! A Soil Consultant's Predicament

Wow! A Soil Consultant's Predicament
Super-dry soil makes soil sampling nearly impossible.

Danny Greene operates his own consulting business in Franklin, Ind. He has lots of clients and plenty of acres that need sampling this fall. And normally, you would think an early harvest and tons of dry, sunny days would be just what someone would want who ahs to pull soil samples.  

Unfortunately, what ahs been good for the sake of getting harvest over and grain out of the field, continued dry weather with very little rain, has not been good for Greene and other consultants operating where moderate drought conditions have set in.

"It's just too dry to get the probe in the ground," he laments. "I've got all this sampling today and I really can't do it because it's just not workable."

Very dry or very wet conditions can also affect accuracy of soil tests. That's why it's best to pull samples at the same time of year each time. However, that could be adjusted for. What Greene and others can't adjust is the inability to get the probe into the ground in many soils.


He prides himself on marking on his probe the exact sampling depth. That's because pulling samples to the same depth each time helps make results more consistent. Soil testing is an art, not a science after all. If he can't get soil samples as deep as he likes each and every time, then it's going to be difficult to get accurate samples.


Meanwhile, piles of lime are beginning to show up in fields that have been harvested in central Indiana. Recently we spotted one loader busily loading an applicator, a Big-A machine, in one of those fields. Without asking its difficult to tell, but chances are that many folks will be spreading using variable rate technology.


Since pH varies so much across most fields, adjusting lime rates on the go with the aid of a computerized map has proven to be one of the practices that provides the biggest payback for precision farming enthusiasts. In fact, many believe it's the place to start. Check pH by whatever method you use, either sampling by grids or soil types or some combination of the two, and spread lime where it's needed. Lime continues to be one of the most economic la inputs in agriculture, especially if the soil tests show that your pH levels are out of the desired ranges. Corn and soybeans do well at pH levels above 6.0, with soybeans perhaps being a little more sensitive than corn. Alfalfa prefers a soil pH level between 6.5 and 7.0.


Lime can still be spread based on previous test results, or if someone was able to pull samples earlier and already forward you the results.

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