I often hear “I tried that 20 years ago. It didn’t save me any money, so I haven’t done it since then,” when it comes to farmers utilizing soil sampling. I’m here to tell you it’s time to try it again. Here’s just a few reasons why you need to reconsider soil sampling on your farm operation.
GPS technology is more precise than ever before. It used to cost a lot of money to have a portable GPS unit for soil sampling. After samples were taken and analyzed, you had to have an expensive computer and software to process the data and create the maps. The power in that computer now fits in a thumb drive. After the dot-matrix printer spit out a paper map, you had to go find someone that was willing to spend the time on your field to get the exact amounts of fertilizer right. That meant skipping some parts of the field and double or triple spreading other parts. Add in the fact that the operator was comparing his position with where he thought he was on a paper map and you had a better chance of doing it wrong than getting it right.
Now, all the technology you need is in the palm of your hand. Paid phone apps can help you get the soil sampling right. Majority of farms have a computer at home and only need to invest in a program if they want to do it themselves. Better yet, any consulting company can do it all for you and deliver custom tailored maps, complete with agronomic review and recommendations, saving you time and money! Hewitt Precision Insights also offers access to the AkerScout mobile app, free for download on your iPhone or Android device. It allows our customers to view UAV images, have access to scouting reports and have GPS enabled crop scouting maps based on maps we create.
Another advancement is in VR technology itself. It used to be that the only way to control your spread rate was to open or close a gate on the spreader. Now it’s all automatic. The display in the cab loads your spreading map and automatically open and closes gates and adjusts the speed of product chains to control the correct rate. The rate adjustment usually takes place within the span of 10 to 20 feet, so you don’t have large transition areas. The display will record an as-applied map, allowing you to see exactly how much was spread on your field. Without soil sampling, you wouldn’t be able to save money on VR spreading to know exactly what nutrients your soil needs and in what amounts throughout your field.
If you haven’t received as-applied maps from your own machine or your hired spreader, you need to request them for this spring. Having as applied maps tells you exactly how much you spread and where. It will show you if there were mechanical problems with the spreader that could show up later in the year as a crop stress. It also keeps your custom operator honest. I don’t want to imply that you are being swindled, but if they know you will be reviewing their work, they might pay a little more attention to details like section control. Having these maps available for your agronomist or farm advisor, can help them make better decision for next year’s fertilizer rates. They can also be used for acre by acre profit mapping.
Once you start to understand your soil needs, a plethora of options for data analysis, profit analysis and cost savings are now accessible. We work to ensure you understand that data and meet your farm operation’s goals.
I hope that by reading this you’ve decided that it might be time to try soil sampling again. The key to soil health lies in the soil itself. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.