How to take a soil sample

[Annalisa]: Hi, I’m Annalisa Hultberg with the University of Minnesota’s Agricultural Health and Safety program. This is another in our series of how-to videos with the Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. The topic of our video today is how to take a soil sample from your fields. We’ll be hearing from Dr. Carl Rosen with the Department of Soil, Water and Climate at the University of Minnesota. Let’s go hear what Dr. Rosen has to say about taking a soil sample. [Dr. Rosen]: So soil sampling is especially important for fruit and vegetable growers. It takes a lot of the guess work out of determining what your fertilizer requirements might be, And also reduces the amount of fertilizer that may not be needed in a certain situation, depending on what your soil test is. A soil test is going to tell you what the pH is, whether it’s acid or alkaline, it’ll tell you what your organic matter level is, it’ll tell you what your phosphorus and potassium levels [are]. You can also get other tests but those are the main tests that we will analyze for. To take a soil sample, you want to make sure that it is representative of the area you are going to be planting your fruits or vegetables on. And to do that, it has to be uniform. No more than 20 acres for a uniform area. And if you’re in a very hilly area, it should represent no more than about 5 acres. To take your sample, you want to remove any debris on the surface… anything, any straw or plant debris. Remove that, and then you make a little face in the soil, dig down about 6-8 inches, and then you would go down to that 6 inch mark, and then put the sample in the bucket. Okay so we’ve taken our initial sample. Now we’re going to take 14 more samples in what we would call a zigzag pattern to get a kind of a representation of the area that you want to fertilize. [music] So now we’ve taken our 15 samples. One thing that’s important to do is you want to make sure that you mix it up very thoroughly so it’s very homogenous. And once you’ve mixed it up thoroughly, you want to take a sub sample of those 15 and you want to put them into a plastic baggie. Now, you’re probably going to need to label this so that you can identify the field that you collected your sample in. So for this particular field, we’ll label this one field one, just go ‘001’. But if you sample another field, and there’s variability on your farm, you’ll probably need to submit more than one sample and you’ll need to identify that with another number or letter. So you need to take your mixed sample and you need about 2 cups of soil to send to the laboratory. So you can just add that into your baggie. And when you have about 2 cups in there you can seal that up and then send it off to the lab for analysis. Once you send it in, along with the information sheet that contains your name and address as well as the crops that you’re growing, it’ll take about a week to 10 days to get your results back. From those results you’ll be able to determine what type of fertilizer or lime that you may need to add to your field. If you have questions regarding your soil test report, you can contact your local Extension office. [Annalisa]: Well thanks for watching. We hope you’ve learned how to take an accurate soil sample from your fields. Make sure to tune in next time for our next video. Thanks.

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