0914SoilTestingForagessr.cfm Take soil samples to determine fertilizer needs
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Take soil samples to determine fertilizer needs


By David G. Hallauer

Meadowlark District Extension Agent

As a general rule, hay yields this summer were well below normal. A lot of that had to do with limited soil moisture and earlier than normal warm temperatures. But was that all of it? Are all of the invasive species we see out there a function of weather? Maybe not.

Even before the drier than desired weather of the past 18 months, many cool-season grass stands were in various stages of decline. Invasive species were on the increase and interest in what to do about yield declines was a hot topic. Fertility levels were poor as well. About 65 percent of the soil tests done through our offices on cool-season grass stands come back low to very low in phosphorous.

So now that we have a little moisture--and a better chance at getting a soil probe in the ground--we need to give strong consideration to a soil test. Without one, our chances of providing exactly what the stand needs is pretty small. With it, we can start to budget our fertilizer dollars, making sure the grass is getting the nutrient load it needs, and avoiding over fertilization at the same time.

Samples can be pulled with a spade, but sampling is made much easier via the use of a soil probe. Each district office has a probe you can check out, but if you plan to get in to a regular testing program (recommended), you can purchase one for yourself as well. Pull samples to a depth of 4 inches from various areas of the field, avoiding any focus on the really good or really bad areas. Mix well together in a plastic bucket, and submit about a pint of soil for testing. A basic test for pH, phosphorous, and potassium (nitrogen recommendation based on yield) is less than 10 dollars. Plan to sample soon--and stay on a regular every other or every third year sampling program to get a better handle on how your program is holding up.

Date: 10/22/2012



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