Rhizoterra, soil health, cover crop, roots, soil health

How to take a soil sample?

This process will work for almost any test:

Some basic rules:

  • Do not put any lubricant on the soil probe- wash the probe first
  • Clean off the soil probe between treatments- for example if you are sampling an alfalfa field clean off the probe before you sample the wheat field.
  • Take the soil temperature and record it on the bag at each sampling location, soil temperature helps me to understand the conditions better, but it is not necessary-  please give me an idea of the conditions at sampling.
  • Always sample in the crop row- to one side of the plant.
    • Scrape away or remove the duff or residue layer to the side.
    • If you begin sampling on the eastside of the crop row for example then continue to sample on the east side of all the rows to be consistent
    • Slide a washed soil sampling probe, trowel or spade very near the stem of the plant (1-2 way in corn so you don’t cut the prop roots is ok) so you are sampling the roots too.
  • Soil samples should be collected to a depth of 6-8 inches or 15-20 cm, because the majority of plant roots are in the top 20 cm of the soil.
  • Put the soil and any root fragments in a labeled plastic zip-lock like bag.
  • Fill out the sample submission form- and keep on copy for yourself.

How many samples do I take?

  • If you have a soils map you can sample to soil type, or you can use the yield map and sample the soil in a poor area and one in a good area on the same soil type.
  • Take at least 5 soil samples in each soil type you can submit them as separate samples- or – you can mix them all together to make a conglomerate sample and then submit on conglomerate sample from the mix.
  • Always submit at least 2 samples that compare different parts of the field (based on yield or soil type) or that compare crop rotation or the amendments that you have used.  You always want to compare.

How to sample a multi species pasture or cover crop?

Pastures and mixed species cover crops require some special consideration when sampling.  It would be good to have a frame, a length of string or “Hula Hoop” that will run at least 2 ft, or a square foot.  This way you have a random representative sample of the plant community.

  • You need to randomly place the frame, avoid places with cow dung or obvious patches of different fertility (unless you want to compare the microbial community in a previous urine patch with a community not recently subjected to urine).
  • Scrape or remove all the obvious organic matter from the surface of the area you are going to sample. If you don’t you will not get an accurate assessment of your soil mineral nutrient content.  The organic carbon contained in your soil is really important and is the driver for soil microbial activity- not the litter, duff, thatch, or surface residue layer on your soil.
  • take 3 samples and put them in a large bag. Then pick 2 other random locations and take 3 samples and put them all in the same bag or clean bucket.  Mix the conglomerate sample thoroughly and subsample 250 gr or ½ lb of soil, place in a clean, labeled water proof bag (for example a ziplock bag).
  • Make sure you label the bags with a number or identifier of some kind so the lab can code of your samples after they arrive.
    • Using 1, 2, 3……etc is fine but you might want to use a separate sheet or a duplicate form to write a description of the sample.

How to take other kinds of sample?

There are different types of sampling one can take depending on the kind of information you are seeking. Listed below are different types of sampling methods.  Just click the test and it will display instructions as a printable PDF.

Community Profiling or biological: PLFA

How to take a sample for a Haney Test

How to sample a multi species pasture or cover crop

How to take a silage sample

How to take a tissue sample for crops

Rhizoterra focuses on a variety of different approaches to improve soil health. First we need to start to with figuring out what the current problem with the soil quality. This can be done by taking some soil samples from multiple areas on your property. There are a couple of different tests that can be done depending on how much detail you want.

This simplest type of test you can do is the Solvita respiration test. It is the simplest because you can do it yourself. There are a variety of Solvita tests including soil and grain depending on your needs. All these test kits will display the current respiration levels of your sample. This can actually tell us a lot about whether or not your soil or grain is putting of carbon dioxide. If there are high levels of carbon dioxide shown then it has microbial active.

If the do it yourself tests are not enough information for you and you want to know more than your soil respiration levels, you can send your soil to a soil health lab. There are a number of different types of tests depending on what results you are looking for. Once you have chosen the type of soil tests you need.  Then have them processed by the lab for your results. This will help you make informed decisions about your soils health.

 Do it yourself test: Solvita Soil and Grain Spoilage.

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