November 25, 2020

Maximize the Benefits of Grid Sampling

20131009_maxyield_110 (681x1024)There’s a good reason why grid sampling has been called one of the most important management practices for modern crop production. Accurate grid soil sampling is the first step to getting the most economic return on your precision farming investment.

“I’ve soil sampled ever since I started farming in the late 1990s and began grid sampling shortly after that,” said Eric Marchand, a SciMax Solutions® client who farms near Britt. “It helps me put the right nutrients in the right place.”

It’s important to update grid samples every four years for best results. Thanks to advances in technology, today’s grid sampling is much more sophisticated and can provide more useful results than the soil tests of yesteryear. All grid sampling services aren’t created equal, however. That’s why MaxYield Cooperative and SciMax Solutions took the process in-house in 2013.

“Quality is the key with soil sampling,” said Rachel Amundson, a SciMax Solutions specialist. “While SciMax partnered with other soil sampling companies in the past, we now run all our samples at a private lab to provide the highest quality service and data.”

MaxYield and SciMax have been working with Dr. Rick Vanden Heuvel of VH Consulting Inc., to provide this attention to detail since 2005. “Dr. Vanden Heuvel made everything easy to understand,” said Marchand, who was one of 20 growers who participated. “I was surprised by how much care he takes from start to finish to provide the best results possible.”

Put your soil to the test
The grid sampling process starts when trained SciMax professionals pull soil samples in the spring and fall using the latest technology. Samples are pulled every 2.5 acres using GPS technology, although the SciMax Solutions team is also testing 1.6-acre grids.

“We’re looking at this to address variability and help SciMax clients manage nutrients better,” said Rodney Legleiter, a SciMax Solutions specialist.

All of the samples are pulled according to SciMax Nitrogen protocols so nutrient recommendations can be made from the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test (ISNT). This soil-based system promotes sustainable agriculture, offers growers increased profit potential, and enhances environmental stewardship.

The samples are then sent to Vanden Heuvel’s certified lab, where they are thoroughly analyzed. This can be a time-consuming, detailed process, Legleiter noted. Because heavy clay soils are common throughout MaxYield’s trade territory, the soil samples need to be dried properly for best testing results. Since heat drying samples with heavy clay content can tie up nutrients and lead to false readings of fertility levels, Vanden Heuvel air dries the samples.

SciMax tour participants viewed the various equipment and data entry systems Vanden Heuvel uses to provide the most accurate results possible. “This isn’t a huge lab that’s focused on volume,” Marchand said. “It’s clear that careful research and quality are very important to Dr. Vanden Heuvel.”

Feeding your high-yielding crops of the future
Once the grid sampling results are in, the SciMax team compiles maps for clients’ fields. These are the start of a customized fertilizer recommendation plan tailored to zones throughout each field.

“Increasing yields starts when you know how much variability is in your fields,” Amundson said. “Understanding your soil conditions will help you better manage nutrients so you can apply the right amount where they are needed and ensure that they work together most effectively.”

Amundson is pleased that the number of grid-sampled acres continues to grow through SciMax Solutions. She encourages more growers to take advantage of this opportunity. “Grid sampling is another time we’re out in your field, learning more about your acres, soil types, and fertility levels. Also, we hold the soil samples for one year, which gives you extra time to decide if you
want to utilize SciMax Nitrogen®.”

Grid sampling is one of the most cost-effective nutrient management solutions available.
It’s also a key to better stewardship of Iowa’s natural resources. “It’s a win-win, because it helps you make the most of your input dollars and yield potential while protecting water quality,” said Peter Bixel, SciMax Solutions’ team leader.

SciMax Solutions plans to host another trip to Wisconsin in the months ahead so more clients have the opportunity to see the level of expertise that goes into the grid sampling results. “Dr. Vanden Heuvel has studied nitrogen management throughout his career, and his expertise is helping us provide more sound agronomic results,” Amundson said.

Marchand is even more convinced about the value of grid sampling after visiting Vanden Heuvel’s lab. “Better fertilizer management makes sense for so many reasons, especially as margins get tighter. It’s good to know that SciMax and Dr. Vanden Heuvel put in the extra effort to make sure their clients receive the best solutions available.”

For more information on grid sampling or SciMax Solutions, log on to www.scimaxsolutions.com/soil-sampling.

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