Maximizing ROI with Soil Sampling

Aug 03, 2021

Once harvest is complete, a farmer’s focus quickly changes to next year’s crop. Soil sampling is a top priority for the fall/winter season, and precision sampling is a great starting point for using technology to maximize returns on investment from inputs, amendments, and field-collected data.

Daniel Mullenix, Senior Manager of Ag Technologies for GreenPoint Ag, suggests asking your ag technology adviser five questions to help you get the most bang from your buck as your fields are being sampled and decisions are being made for next year’s crops.

1. How can I ensure the highest quality soil sample?
The art and science of soil sampling is sometimes overlooked, but the impact it will have on subsequent crops and soil health is tremendous. Quality, representative soil sampling is imperative to ensure that the appropriate nutrients are being placed at the right rate in the correct place. Make sure your samples are being pulled at a consistent depth and are appropriate for your farming practices. University Extension recommendations are 3 to 4 inches for untilled soil and 6 to 8 inches for tilled soil. Ask your ag technology partner how many core samples are being pulled per grid or zone. Are they pulling cores across the grid or zone in a manner that truly represents the area? Timing is also important. Pulling samples at the same time each year or on the same rotation will ensure that seasonal variability is minimized. Lastly, moisture plays a major role in sample quality. If soil is too wet or too dry when sampled, errors may show in pH readings.

2. Is your trusted adviser communicating with you throughout the sampling and planning process, and do you have ready access to your data?
We live in a cloud-based data world and have almost instant access to just about any information we need, so your farming records should be no different. Is your trusted adviser giving you “on-demand” access to your data, and is he or she available to discuss plans and options when you need them? Can they answer your data-driven questions and output deliverables and results that will move the needle forward for your operation next season?

3. Is your ag data private and secure?
Cyber-security attacks are becoming more common across the globe, and the agriculture industry isn’t immune. This was proven by the recent JBS cyber-attack involving the world’s largest meat supplier. Your data belongs to you, and it should be kept private and secure. Ask your adviser how they are protecting this valuable resource.

4. Can your adviser provide custom solutions and plans tailored to your farming operation needs?
In the world of precision agriculture, not every tool in the ag technology toolbox is a fit for your operation, but there are several that may be customized to fit the needs of your farm. Ask your trusted adviser if they can customize ag technology approaches to your needs. Maybe it means fitting within the constraints of your budget, working with your specific soil textures or field conditions, building fertility algorithms to match your goals, or helping you push the envelope on yield. If you are not getting a maximum return on your ag tech investment, chances are you need a custom approach tailored to your operation.

5. Can your ag tech adviser appropriately analyze your data and use trends to enhance future decisions?
As you continue to collect data from your planter, sprayer, or harvester through soil sampling, imagery, and other means, are you getting the help you need to analyze and make sense of what you’re seeing? Does your adviser have the proper resources to tie everything together, look at your operation systematically, glean insights from the interactions of multiple data layers, and help you better understand short- and long-term impacts of the decisions you are making today?

“With the help of your Tennessee Farmers Cooperative ag technology or agronomy staff as your trusted adviser, you can confidently answer these questions and be certain that you are leveraging your on-farm technology to its fullest potential,” says Mullenix. “Through the technology’s robust set of analysis tools, we can facilitate innovation, growth, and sustainability on your operation while maintaining a focus on efficiency and profitability.”

Visit or reach out to your local participating co-op location for the answers to any questions you may have.

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