By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo
Knowing how to get the “real dirt” on your soil can improve your bottom line.
If you’ve noticed parts of your crop field are doing better than other areas, it may be a sign there’s something wrong with the soil.
Just what is at the root of the problem might not be evident above ground for several years.
Farmers can save time and money, and improve their crop yield, by conducting a soil test.
Keith Reid, soil fertility specialist with Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, likens the need for soil testing to checking the oil periodically in your vehicle.
“When the oil light comes on, it’s a clear sign there’s a problem and some damage may already have been done,” he noted.
“Similarly, by the time there are visual signs of a problem in your field, yield has been lost and profits have been affected.”
Reid advocates soil testing to eliminate the guesswork.
The three-step process of soil sampling starts by selecting an area to test. A large field needs to be divided into small sample areas of 25 acres or less.
The next step is to obtain the actual soil sample.
Plants take up most of their nutrients from the top six inches of soil. Using a soil probe, a farmer needs only to take a sample of six inches.
Reid recommends you take at least 20 core samples in a zigzag pattern through a field.
The final step in the process is the scientific evaluation of the soil samples. A list of accredited soil sampling labs is available on OMAFRA’s website.
Soil test results help a farmer to address a specific soil deficiency.
Reid recalled one farmer who struggled for four years with poor yields. The farmer assumed his soil lacked phosphorous and kept adding it to the soil.
When the situation didn’t improve, he tested the soil and discovered it was a lack of potash that was causing the problem.
Fortunately for the farmer, following the soil test results ended four years of poor field returns and the expense of unnecessary fertilizer.
For more information about soil sampling, farmers can call OMAFRA’s Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300.
Dates to remember
•May 2–Ag-Impact Study, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Emo Inn (lunch provided)
This meeting to generate a current profile of the agriculture sector in Rainy River District while identifying past and emerging trends.
The Rainy River study will be conducted concurrently with agri-economic impact studies being conducted in three other districts: Thunder Bay, Cochrane, and Kenora/Dryden.
The contacts are Rick Neilson (487-2387) and Linda Armstrong (852-3645).