Out Probing Around

 

Soil sortingpic3

By: Christopher J Miller

I am a senior at Western Illinois University, and I am an Agriculture Business major. I have worked with Daryl Ellis at Lee Crop Care for almost two years now. I have gained vast amounts of knowledge with soil sampling, and I have also had plenty of hands on experience in the field inspecting for crop diseases in corn/soybeans. I chose to interview Daryl about soil sampling and what is included with the procedures of soil sampling.

According to Daryl Ellis “A long time ago, GPS soil sampling used to include people going out to a farmer’s field and physically walking the parameters to measure the needed lengths of the field. With today’s technology, I can sit in my office and google earth the images of a field that I have been hired to soil sample. From Google Earth I can see the lengths of the field, and make maps that help me depict the appropriate size of that field”. 

Soil sampling uses 2.5 acre grids, which from there we use a four wheeler to drive straight lines up and down or across each field depending on the shape. We pull four core samples around the four wheeler every 330 feet. This process takes up quite a bit of time for farmers who have quite a bit of acreage. Once that is completed, the samples are brought back to the lab and sorted numerically by the order they were pulled in the field.

Each sample gets divided into two cups. The first cups gets filled with half a cup of soil and distilled water all the way to the top. The second gets filled with half a cup of soil but is mixed with soil extractor and distilled water. The one with just distilled water is used for a pH balance. A good pH balance is anything over 6.5, which tells us that the soil is extracting all the nutrients it can. Anything under 6.5 tells us that the soil is not performing where it needs to be.

The other cup with soil extractor and distilled water gets separated into another cup with  coffee filter. The filter holds the soil, and only the extractor and nutrients can pass through it. From this cup we can test all sorts of micro-nutrients, which we can report back to the farmer and tell him which nutrient is low. It is up to the farmer whether to believe us or not, we tell him what needs to be fixed so the problem can be erased.

“Soil sampling is the basis for next years crop plan, in which to build a productive yield with as little extra cost to the farmer as possible”. 

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