Soil Sampling: Should you test your soils?

Soil sampling is a very important management practice that is being implemented on many farms across the United States. Periodic soil sampling serves as a very important indicator of soil fertility, and whether the fertility is increasing, decreasing, or staying constant. Crop yield statistics have shown us that soil fertility on many farms may be declining due to deficient nutrient management. Many fertilizer companies continue to use soil testing as a marketing tool and as a management service for their customers.

Picture I took near Blandinsville, IL Soil sampling for Crop Production Services

I will be further discussing the sampling procedures, what information soil sampling provides us with and how we can use this information to improve our farms:

Sampling Procedures 

soil test 2
iPad mounted on the handlebars, using the app Echelon to map the field

There are many different procedures that are implemented when sampling. The procedure that is most common in the Mcdonough County area, is using a ATV, sampling probe, and GPS system. Using a GPS system allows you to boundary your field, and set a grid to record each location that you sample at. Depending on the lab that you decided to send it to, they will more than likely suggest the GPS system you use. Crop Production Services and F.S use iPads, and handheld GPS systems.

You are then able to choose how many samples you do per acre, the standard is a sample every 2.5 acres. You are able to set locations at which you wish to test. This is the most accurate and time efficient. Once you record your location, the standard depth you should probe the ground is 6 inches, and depending on the size of your probe, 2 or 3 probes into the ground will give you a large enough sample to be tested.

What soil samples will provide you with?

Once, you have collected the samples, they will then be sent to a laboratory that will test the soils. Those tests will come back with results concerning:

  • Current pH levels of your soil
  • Fertility levels of the principal nutrients (Nitrogen, Potassium, Sulfur, Magnesium)
soil test 1
This is a picture of how we package and hold our samples!

How can we use the test results?

We can use the results from soil sampling in many ways to help improve our farms. We can use this when dealing with the allocation of fertilizer dollars to the nutrients that will give the greatest increase in profit. The samples results show which areas in your field are lacking nutrients, which can be used to help maximize nutrient efficiency. This can be used to determine how much lime and fertilizers need to be applied. In the end, soil sampling is a growing management practice that many farmers are taking advantage of, will you be next? Contact your local fertilizer plant to see what services they offer.


Hi, I’m Jonathan Ferguson, a junior at Western Illinois University. I’m from Niota, IL. I am studying Agriculture Business. I am currently in Alpha Gamma Rho, Agriculture Business Club, and a part of Ag Council. I actually soil sample for Crop Production Services in Blandisville, IL. This year we have sampled a little over 10,000 acres. 


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