What You Need to Know about Soil Sampling

If you're considering the purchase of land for farming it's very important to test the soil and to request information from the current owner before you proceed. This will give you a clear picture of the "nutrient bank" and any soil health problems you may come across, as you will want to get a test for each of the different soil types to be found at the property. You will also need to become very familiar with soil testing yourself as a potential new owner. What do you need to know?

What Needs to Be Tested

If you plan on producing grain, silage or hay then you will need to conduct soil tests annually, but if you will be using the land simply for grazing cows then you can conduct your soil tests less frequently, perhaps once every few years. The soil needs to be tested for biological, chemical and physical properties in order to determine its overall health. To have an accurate soil test reading you must determine the exact quantity and quality of nutrients for best practice and will then avoid wasting money on any unwanted ingredients.

Procedures Are Important

You must ensure that you follow proper procedures when collecting soil samples as techniques, date, sample size are all important in determining an accurate interpretation of the fertility of the soil in question.

When to Test

Collect your soil samples right before you begin sewing your crops. For example, if you're going to sew oats in winter then collect soil samples in February. You will then have a couple of weeks for the samples to be reviewed by the laboratory.

Where to Test

Collect your soil samples in specific locations within individual paddocks. You may find that you have several different soil types in one specific paddock, such as loam or sand. In this case, each soil type must be sampled independently as each will have different properties, such as pH levels.

Try to find an area that is as neutral as possible in order to collect your soil samples. In other words, do not sample an area where fertiliser may have been dumped or where water may have pooled.

How to Test

Use a special soil sampling tool which you can get from your local agricultural stockist. You can get an accurate reading of all the soil properties by testing simply the topsoil. Sometimes a laboratory will request more information which will require you to get a deeper soil sample. This may be because they need a more accurate pH or nitrogen reading, In this case, the sample will normally have to be handled by a qualified agronomist using a special "auger" mounted on the rear of a utility vehicle.