Today’s farmers need the most accurate information they can get to make good decisions about inputs. One of the most important sources of information for a farmer is a complete, current understanding of the soil.
Soil testing is simply a snapshot that represents the current state at the time of testing. As we grow crops, nutrient availability decreases. Conditions will fluctuate naturally based on microbial activity, weather, and production management decisions. As a result, soil tests by themselves do not give farmers a complete picture – other factors and dynamics have to be considered. However, regular testing, and good interpretation of results is a critical piece of the puzzle.
Therefore, soil testing is an important starting point. Results from testing soils tell you what nutrients exist, how favorable the root environment is, and what can be done to alter the root environment to a farmer's advantage.
At Ag Spectrum, we create “management zones” for each new customer and each field. We start by identifying soil types on a base map obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey. Using this map and production data, we identify specific “management zones.”
We combine zones of less than two acres, to reduce frustration since it is unlikely the customer will want to manage anything less than that separately. Several samples are collected within each area and are combined into one bag for testing.
By identifying large areas with similar characteristics, there is less need to pull many samples from large areas, which in turn provides better information at less cost. Farmers using a grid would have to obtain samples every half-acre to match the accuracy of the ST/MZ map shown here. The fields should be sampled every 2-3 years as soil changes over time.
This approach to sampling by Soil Type and Management Zone, abbreviated as ST/MZ, provides an in-depth analysis to help optimize your crop production.