Why and How to Perform a Soil Sample
By Logan Schmidt / April 2019
Logan is a Barley Agronomist based in Idaho Falls, ID. Logan has a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business Management from Brigham Young University Idaho and has worked for Anheuser-Busch since June 2016.
Soil sampling and testing are key factors to help ensure planted barley meets malt specifications. The soil test provides a recipe for the plant’s required nutrients needs for the growing season and the future. Soil testing is crucial for optimizing inputs, while producing high quality malt barley.
Why perform a soil test?
Every soil is different and the residual fertilizer in soils varies based on soil type and crop rotation. It is important to know what is in the soil and what needs to be applied to have necessary amounts of fertilizer for the current crop being grown, without over applying. Over application of fertilizer reduces input efficiency and can lead to negative impacts on the land and water.
How to perform a soil test?
When performing a soil test we recommend collecting a representative sample of the field. This is done by sampling the field in a grid pattern, making sure all areas of the field are sampled and accounted for. When taking a soil test we suggest performing a 0-12 inch sample and a 12-24 inch sample (this varies by region and soil type). Doing two different tests will show you what will be immediately available and also what will be available as the roots grow deeper. We suggest combining all 0-12 inch samples in a five gallon bucket and mixing the soils. This gives you a representation of what the entire fields 0-12 inch soil is, and the same should be performed on the 12-24 inch samples. Tools needed to perform an accurate soil test are something to gather the soil (soil auger, probe, or shovel) a five-gallon bucket to mix the soil into a composite sample, shovel, tape measure to measure the sample depth and a sample bag. If there is a portion of the field that differs greatly from other areas of the field, then consider sampling that area separately.
When to pull the sample?
For best results, samples should be taken one to two weeks prior to planting. If pressed for time a sample can be taken in the fall and will give accurate results. Regardless of when the sample is taken make sure the lab can have results back in time to make fertilizer decisions.
Performing a soil test helps meet Anheuser-Busch’s quality specifications and, tells you what your soil really needs to produce quality crops. We recommend sampling soil once a year so you are able to build your soil health and continue growing malt-grade barley.
If you have any questions on soil testing or sample results consult your Anheuser-Busch agronomist.