Soil Testing: A Tool to Combat High Fertilizer Prices

Chad Guthrie
District Extension Agent, Crop production and Forage Management
Southwind District
210 S. National
Fort Scott, Kansas 66701
Office: 620-223-3720
Cell: 308-991-8415
[email protected]

Fertilizer prices have reached new highs as we move into 2022, and they show no signs of coming back down for this growing season. Many farmers wonder if they’ll be able to properly fertilize their crops, or if they’ll have to settle for lighter rates, and consequently, lighter yields come harvest. While there is no slam dunk way to raise a healthy crop without the use of chemical fertilizers, farmers can take small steps now to possibly lower the amount of fertilizer they apply come spring. One easy, and affordable, step every farmer can take is to have soil tests done for their field prior to spring planting.

Many farmers guess what the nutrient levels are in their soils. Sometimes the assumption is made that most of their fields will have similar nutrient levels, and one soil test is enough to make fertility decisions across their entire operation. The fact of the matter is, that each field is different, and each field should have its very own fertility plan.

The problems that can arise from treating an entire operation as one field can range from over-fertilizing, and wasting money, to under fertilizing, and missing out on the added yield potential of a field. With rising grain prices, farmers are not going to want to miss out on any yield potential from their fields.

Taking soil samples is very simple. Each of our Extension offices have soil probes and sampling bags that farmers can check out to take proper samples. I recommend taking multiple probes from each field, mixing those subsamples together in a clean bucket, and then filling one of our sampling bags from the congregated sample. For large fields, I recommend splitting the field into sections, no bigger than 40 acres, and using the same method to pull samples from each of those sections. More information on taking proper samples can be found on the KSU soil testing lab website, or by contacting your local extension office.

Once you have gathered soil samples from your fields, you can bring them into our extension offices and we can take care of the rest. Tests run around $15 to cover shipping and lab fees, and results are typically received 10-15 days after the lab receives the samples. Each test result will have recommendations made by the KSU soil testing lab, and adjustments can be made by the extension office to fit our area.

Spending the money now to get testing done may seem like an unnecessary, added expense to rising input prices, but knowing exactly what each field needs to raise a quality crop can either save money by removing excess fertilizer, or equate to added yield and higher profits at harvest time.



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