By Saskatchewan Agriculture
By Ken Panchuk, PAg, Provincial Specialist Soils
Now that we are into October, it is time to soil test if this task isn't already completed. The soil temperature is usually cooling at this time of the year and will soon be below 10 C. This means the microbial activity has slowed considerably and that there will be little change in the soil analysis by waiting any longer.
Producers should be in the field banding urea or anhydrous ammonia before the end of October, once the soil has cooled below 10 C. These forms of nitrogen minimize losses because they convert to ammonium, the stable form of nitrogen that stays on the soil exchange until the soil warms up in the spring.
Collecting truly representative soil samples from a field is the most important part of sampling. It is also important to deliver the fresh soil samples to the soil lab as quickly as possible for processing.
Getting more from your soil test can be as easy as providing as much detailed information as possible about the field, including subsoil moisture measurements that help determine realistic yield targets for determining the correct nutrient rates. Subsoil moisture measurements can be further updated at freeze-up and again in the spring, just before seeding to allow adjustments to target yields and nutrient levels just in time for seeding.
Working with a crop advisor and soil test lab will provide producers with the information necessary to assess nutrient management requirements. Soil sampling is also an important step in the industry-led 4R nutrient stewardship program: the Right Source, applied at the Right Rate, at the Right Time and in the Right Place.