SOUTHWEST, N.Y. — Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program (SWNYDLFC) highlights the importance of soil sampling to understand the nutrient content of agricultural soils. Soil testing in fall helps to identify nutrient imbalances and allows time to address them prior to the 2021 growing season.
When we introduce a seed or plant to the soil on our farm or homestead, our desire is to have that seed grow and the plant flourish. For any plant to reach its fullest potential, in addition to having good rainfall and ideal growing temperatures, soil nutrients need to be available in the appropriate quantities. It is difficult to know what nutrients are lacking in the soil just by looking at it. This is where soil testing comes into the picture. Soil testing helps us as farmers and gardeners identify the imbalances we cannot see with the naked eye.
A soil testing schedule should be established to help understand nutrient levels and how they change over time. It is recommended to test soils before planting a crop in an area that has not been tested previously. Once there is an understanding of the soil quality and crops have been established, soil tests should be taken every 2 years if planting annual crops such as corn, soybeans, or vegetable crops, and every 3 years if the field is planted in a perennial crop such as pasture or fruit trees/bushes. This will allow for the regular identification and correction of nutrient imbalances.
The first step to testing soil is to identify the areas that you want to sample. Each field or garden plot should be sampled individually since management and location can result in varied nutrient levels in the soil. For fields larger than 15 acres, it is recommended that they be split up into multiple sections for sampling. Once the individual areas have been identified, 10-15 soil cores from each should be taken in a random pattern, and then mixed to form one sample, which will be sent to a soil lab. A soil core is a representative slice or tube of soil that has been collected using either a shovel or soil probe. The depth of the soil cores will depend on if you are tilling the soil or not as well as the crop you intend to plant. Remember to remove any plant matter from the soil surface before you take the sample. For more detailed information on how to sample, watch our demonstration video at: https://youtu.be/X2pFw8tqT-8
Once core samples are taken, prepare them according to the instructions from your soil testing lab. The most commonly used soil testing lab in the state is Dairy-One, but you can contact your local crop advisor or extension agent for alternative recommendations. When filling out the submission form, make sure to fill every line out, including your soil type. Soil type is used by the lab to make specific nutrient recommendations for the crops you intend to plant. Information on soil type can be found using the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) Web Soil Survey (https://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/).
The soil testing lab will return a detailed report. Take time to review current soil nutrient levels as well as the management recommendations.
If you have questions about testing your soil or interpreting your soil test report, reach out to your local Cooperative Extension office or team. If you live in SWNY and have questions about liming your pastures, reach out to Amy Barkley, Livestock and Beginning Farm Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org or (716) 640 – 0844. Questions on liming field crops can be directed to Josh Putman, Field Crops and Forage Specialist at email@example.com or (716) 490-5572.
Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program specialists are here to help provide research-based resources and support during this challenging time. Their team of four specialists include Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Farm Business Management (716-640-0522 or firstname.lastname@example.org); Joshua Putman, Field Crops (716-490-5572 or email@example.com); Alycia Drwencke, Dairy Management (517-416-0386 or firstname.lastname@example.org); and Amy Barkley, Livestock Management (716-640-0844 or email@example.com). While specialists are working remotely at this time, they are still offering consultations via phone, text, email, videoconferencing, and mail. They are also providing weekly updates with timely resources and connections via email and hardcopy and virtual programming.
The Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program is the newest Cornell Cooperative Extension regional program and covers Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Steuben Counties. The Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops regional specialists work with Cornell faculty and Extension educators to address the issues that influence the agricultural industry in New York by offering educational programming and research based information to agricultural producers, growers, and agribusinesses in the Southwestern New York Region. Cornell Cooperative Extension is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities. For more information about this program, or to be added to their contact list, contact Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Team Leader, at 716-640-0522, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website swnydlfc.cornell.edu.
–Cornell Cooperative Extension
SWNY Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops
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