Friday, June 14, 2013


These three look like they may be on a leisurely stroll through a corn field enjoying one of the few days we have had of sunshine.  But, they are doing more than that.  Due to the excessive amounts of rain we have received this spring there is a real concern that the corn crop may be short on nitrogen.  Nitrogen is one of four most important nutrients needed to produce corn.   While we have applied some nitrogen already to the field we still have time to side dress the amount yet needed by the crop.  To determine what the amount still needed is we need to have soil tested in a lab.  That means we need to take soil samples.  Lots of soil samples.

Joe and Junior Super Intern (along with #3's help) sometimes tag team pulling soil samples to send to the testing lab.  Joe pulls the first core down to the 1 foot level.  Then he drops the soil core into the bucket.

Then, Junior Super Intern(JSI) takes a core out of the same core hole
as Joe but this core is from 1 foot to 2 feet deep. This is where muscle comes in. 

It takes a lot of umph to get that soil probe down that deep.  I used to take these samples by myself 20 years ago but then I wised up - take the pictures and have a strapping young man do the hard work.  Joe and JSI take several cores in an area of the field.  This will be one sample that is bagged up.  There will be several samples taken acrossed a farm because soils vary acrossed a farm and each soil holds nitrogen differently. 

Because the soil is so wet it often sticks in the soil probe.  A long time ago we discover that Pam cooking spray applied to the probe will help the soil slide out easily and not effect the analysis.  This is where #3 comes in.  He is the Pam man!

Once all the samples are pulled the bags are labeled and set in the frig so the soil bacteria are slowed down from fixing more nitrogen in the sample and we get an accurate measurement from the lab. 

When you live on a farm you never know for sure what
may end up in your frig.

JSI packs up the samples and ships them off to the testing lab.  In a couple of days the results are emailed to us.  From the labs measurements we can decide if we need to add more nitrogen to the field for the corn crop. 

For those of you in the know - yes, I realize I simplified this process but I didn't want to give a lecture today.  If you would like more information about this follow these links:

How to do a Deep Nitrate Test Soil Sample -

 Nitrogen Fertilizer Recommendations for Iowa -

This whole process takes a lot of the guess work out of managing a corn crop.  The farmer finds out if more nitrogen is needed by the crop.  If it is needed a corn grower can side dress the crop with anhydrous ammonia, urea, or liquid 28%.  If more nitrogen is not needed the grower can move on to the next chore on this list.  This is good for the crop, the environment, and the farmer's pocket book. 

No comments:

Post a Comment