It turns out, soil sampling is gaining popularity. According to Clint Nester, an agronomist with Nester Ag, which manages over 150,000 acres in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, the proliferation of precision ag will lead to growth in zone sampling going forward.
“As we get more and more data layers to stack on top of each other, we can make better decisions,” he says. “We’ve seen in the last five years more and more guys interested in precision ag and precision sampling because they need to improve their yields. The equipment is there to VR almost every product out there now, and to do this they’re going to need the most accurate maps.
“Having a good blueprint to grow that crop will become more and more important.”
PRECISION MANAGEMENT DRIVING INCREASE IN SOIL TESTING
This isn’t the only driver, he says. Precision management is also on the upswing due to increased regulation around inputs and water use, driven by environmental concerns. Ohio, for example, recently passed a law stating that growers can’t apply inputs ahead of a rainstorm or on snow-covered ground, when runoff is higher.
“I would see that expanding,” he notes. “If I had a crystal ball, I’d say in the future you might need to have a soil test saying you need fertilizer to be able to grow the crop. That’s where we’re going. With Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico the way they are, the writing is on the wall that we need to do a better job of managing nutrients.”
BOTTOM LINE: MARRY AGRONOMY WITH TECHNOLOGY
According to Timothy Mundorf, field rep and precision ag specialist with Midwest Laboratories in Omaha, Nebraska, precision ag is already driving the soil test business. That’s why he’s conducting a two-day ‘Precision Ag University’ training event for growers wanting to boost their understanding of ag technology, agronomy and the vital intersection of the two.
“We have people out there who are great with the computer, the technology, the software, but they may be weak on applying that information to the crop,” he says. “Then you have people who really understand the agronomy but are weak with technology. We’re trying to get people to think about both sides.”
Mundorf says his lab has been experiencing an upswing in the volume of samples sent in of 10 to 20 percent annually. “We don’t know how the samples were taken,” he says, noting the increase seems to be in grid and zone sampling. “An intense zone program can look just like a grid program.”