Soil sampling allows you to optimize yields, minimize fertilizer costs
Managing the nutrient content of the soil is one key to optimum performance of any plant whether it is your lawn or a commercial crop like alfalfa, corn, apples, turf or pumpkins. Over or under application of these essential plant nutrients is very costly in terms of lost yield or quality. The environmental impact from over application or misapplication of plant nutrients can have significant and costly consequences as well. For that reason, soil testing should be the foundation of any crop management plan whether it is for the home gardener or the commercial farm operation.
The value of soil testing
An agronomic soil test extracts a portion of the plant available nutrients contained in a soil sample and results are then classified as low, medium, high or very high based on expected crop response to added crop nutrients, crops grown on soils that test high to very high for a specific nutrient are not likely to respond with a yield increase if that nutrient is applied to the soil. However, soils testing low or medium for that nutrient are likely to show improved yield and quality if that nutrient is applied (provided other nutrients are present in adequate amounts).
Soil testing is a required component of nutrient management plans for many commercial farming operations as well as for purchase of phosphorous containing fertilizers for use on established lawns in some Northeast states.
State specific Agro-One packages are targeted to customer needs
Agro-One offers soil test packages and nutrient guidelines to meet the diverse needs of commercial crop producers and home owners here in the Northeast.* New York customers also have the option of an Agro-One analysis with Cornell recommendations.
* Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont
Ordering Your Free Soil/Manure Sampling Supplies
There are 3 ways to order sampling kits
- Call 1.800.344.2697 ext.7. Have your account number ready. If you get the supply voicemail, leave a detailed message including account number, shipping address and quantity of kits needed.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your account number and/or name, street address and daytime phone number plus items and quantity needed. Specify the type of sample information sheet needed.
- Order directly from this website.
Soil Testing Services
Nutrient balance is key
There are 16 nutrient elements required to grow all plants and crops but soils vary in their ability to provide the correct balance of nutrients for a number of reasons including soil type, environment, crop removal, and application of soil amendments including manure, compost, commercial fertilizer or crop residues.
|Nutrient Essential For Plant Growth|
|Nutrients From Air And Water||Nutrients From Soil, Limestone, Commercial Fertilizer or Organic Amendments|
|Primary Nutrients (a)||Secondary Nutrients (b)||Micronutrients (c)|
|Carbon - C|
Hydrogen - H
Oxygen - O
|Nitrogen - N|
Phosphorus - P
Potassium - K
|Calcium - Ca|
Magnesium - Mg
Sulfur - S
|Boron - B
Chlorine - Cl
Copper - Cu
Iron - Fe
Molybdenum - Mo
Zinc - Zn
|a) Utilized in the largest amount by plants.
b) Required in smaller amounts than primary nutrients.
c) Required in even smaller amounts than secondary nutrients.
Managing the nutrient content of the soil is one key to optimum performance of any plant whether it is your lawn or a commercial crop like alfalfa, corn, apples, turf or pumpkins. Over or under application of these essential plant nutrients is very costly in terms of lost yield or quality and the environmental impact from over application or misapplication of plant nutrients can have significant and costly consequences as well. For that reason, soil testing should be the foundation of any crop management plan whether it is for the home gardener or the commercial farm operation.
Soil testing tells us if lime or fertilizer is needed
An agronomic soil test extracts a portion of the plant available nutrients contained in a soil sample and results are then classified as low, medium, high or very high based on expected crop response to added crop nutrients, Crops grown on soils that test high to very high for a specific nutrient are not likely to respond with a yield increase that nutrient is applied to the soil. However, soils testing low or medium for that nutrient are likely to show improved yield and quality if that nutrient is applied (provided other nutrients are present in adequate amounts).
Soil testing is a required component of nutrient management plans for many commercial farming operations as well as for purchase of P containing fertilizers for use on established lawns in some Northeast states.
State specific Agro-One packages are targeted to customer needs
Due to the diversity of soils in North America, there are many different soil tests used to characterize the nutrient content of soils. Each test was developed based on the chemistry of the soils and crop response in the region where the test will be used.
Agro-One offers soil test packages and nutrient guidelines to meet the diverse needs of commercial crop producers and home owners here in the Northeast. * New York customers also have the option of an Agro-One analysis with Cornell recommendations.
* Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.
Taking a soil sample is needed to determine lime and fertilizer requirements and avoid costly over or under fertilization. Follow the guidelines below to help ensure the best results.
Order Your Soil Test Supplies
There are 3 ways to order soil sample boxes and sample information sheets:
- Call 1.800.344.2697 ext. 7
- Email email@example.com. Be sure to include your account number and/or name, street address and daytime phone number plus items and quantity needed. Specify the type of sample information sheet needed
- Directly from our on-line store
Establish a Sampling Schedule
Most soils should be sampled every 2 – 3 years; more often for sandy soils, high value crops or problem areas.
To avoid seasonal variation, try to sample at the same time every year for a given field or garden. Fall is generally considered to be the most reliable time to pull samples, especially when it comes to pH. Soil pH fluctuates and tends to be lower in the summer when temperatures are higher and soils are dryer. When soils dry out, salt concentrations increase allowing Ca++, Mg++, K+ to replace H+ and Al+++ on the soil surface. The extra H+ and Al+++ in the soil solution will temporarily decrease soil pH hence pH determination is more reliable in the Fall when soil moisture is a bit higher.
Use the Right Tool
Use tools that are clean and free of rust. Avoid brass or galvanized tools or containers that can contaminate samples with zinc or copper. Stainless steel probes or augers are best because they collect a continuous core through the entire sampling depth with a minimum disturbance of the soil (see Figure 1.). Avoid shovels or trowels.
Collect samples in a clean plastic bucket or plastic bag. Avoid collecting or shipping wet samples in plain commercial paper bags or boxes that are often treated with a product containing boron. Wet samples can leach boron out of the paper and contaminate the sample. If possible, send air dried samples in and Agro-One sample box.
Sample at the Proper Depth Based on Tillage
- Moldboard plow – surface to tillage depth (usually 6-7 inches)
- Chisel plow and offset disk – sample before tillage to ¾ of the tillage depth.
- Reduced tillage systems – No Till, Ridge till, Zone Till etc.
Two Samples may be required. Sample between rows to avoid disturbed soil or fertilizer band.
- Sample to 6 inch depth for pH and nutrient content.
- Take a second sample to a 1 inch depth to determine if surface applied N has resulted in an acid layer that can reduce the effectiveness of triazine herbicides.
Identify the Sampling Area
Historically, a single composite soil sample has been used to generate one fertilizer and lime recommendation for each field. This is adequate in many cases but may result in inefficient use of fertilizer inputs and increased potential for environmental degradation due to over or under fertilization within a field if the field is quite variable.
Technology such as digitized soil survey maps, electrical conductivity mapping, yield monitors and aerial photographs may help farms sample fields more precisely by dividing them into “management zones”. Several cores can be taken from each management zone and submitted separately to generate a nutrient application plan that is customized for each management zone within the field. Up front analytical costs may be higher per field since you may submit multiple samples for each field but it allows for improved fertilizer efficiency and environmental protection
Follow the guidelines shown below for taking a single composite soil sample per field. Contact your crop adviser if you plan to implement site specific or “precision” sampling on your farm.
- Take 15-20 plow depth core sub-samples using a zig-zag pattern in a management area representing < 20 acres (see Figure 2.).
- Avoid unusual areas such as dead furrows, old hedge rows, fence lines, old manure piles, lime piles or burn piles. Avoid wet areas or severely eroded areas.
- Take separate samples from areas within the field that vary widely from the rest of the field in color, slope, soil texture, drainage, productivity or crop history.
- Sample each contour strip separately if it is > 5 acres.
- Mix the 15-20 subsamples completely in a clean plastic bag or plastic bucket.
- Avoid sampling under extremely wet soil conditions. Wet samples usually leak in transit and some nutrients in very wet soils may undergo rapid biological transformations.
Home Landscape Samples
- Each sample should represent only one area – for example, a lawn, vegetable garden or perennial landscaped area (Figure 3).
- For each unique area take at least 10 – 12 cores.
- Submit samples from healthy and unhealthy areas separately.
- Sample lawns to a depth of 4 inches.
- Sample shrubbery & perennial beds to a depth of 4 – 6 inches taking care to avoid zones where lime or fertilizer has been applied recently.
- Sample annual vegetable and flower beds to the depth that you plan to incorporate lime or fertilizer, usually about 4 – 6 inches.
- Place all cores for one unique area in a clean plastic bucket and mix well. Fill the soil sample box about 2/3rd full (about 2 cups).
Prepare Samples for Shipment
If possible, spread wet samples in a thin layer on a clean surface and dry at room temperature. Do not use heat but a fan is acceptable to assist in drying. Remove large stones or sticks and break up large lumps or clods before mixing the sample thoroughly.
Complete the required information on the sample box before assembling and make sure that it matches the information on the sample information sheet. Place about ¾ – 1 pint of the mixed sample in the sample box then close it securely.
Fill Out the Sample Information Sheet Completely.
A completed sheet must accompany each sample. Required information includes;
- Customer name, address and contact information.
- Consultant/Extension Educator name, address and contact information
- Method of reporting results – fax, email or US Mail.
- Type of report required – with or without recommendations.
- All Commercial NY samples must include a valid soil name if results are needed
- All Home, Garden Landscape NY samples must include soil texture and soil drainage if results are to be reported.
- All VT samples require soil drainage class if results are to be reported
- Method of payment – Dairy One or Agro One account number, DHIA herd code, credit card information or a check. Results will not be released until payment or billing information has been received.
- Sample information – sample identification, soil name (NY commercial samples), soil drainage & soil texture (NY Home, garden and landscape samples, soil drainage class (VT samples), and other required information should be filled in completely. Recommendations may not be generated if the information sheet is incomplete.
- KEEP A RECORD OF ALL SAMPLES SHIPPED including method and date of shipment. Dried ground samples will be stored at the lab for approximately 4 weeks to allow for additional test requests.
- Maintain records of your soil test results to assist in monitoring changes in soil fertility over time. This may be useful to adjust soil management to meet crop demands without costly over or under application of nutrients.
Ship Your Samples to:
730 Warren Road
Ithaca NY 14850
Samples can be shipped via U.S. Mail, UPS, Fed Ex, DHL, etc. Selecting these carriers will require additional packaging and will incur additional shipping and handling costs. If using the USPS, the flat rate boxes will be your most economical way to ship samples.
In some areas, samples can be left at milk pick-up points by prior arrangement. Where available, samples will be picked up three times a week and delivered to the Dairy One facility in Ithaca the following morning.There is no shipping or handling charge for this service. Complete information on pick-up point locations, procedures and schedules can be found here.
When you fill in the required information on the Agro-One Sample information sheets you will be asked to provide a Crop Code.
The Crop Code is a three letter abbreviation provided on the back of the sample information sheets and on the attached Agro-One Crop Code lists.
The Crop Code is used to generate crop specific nutrient guidelines. Please take time to review the crop codes provided and use the one that most closely matches the crop(s) that you plan to grow. Using the correct Crop Code will help ensure that you will get the nutrient guidelines that best match your crop needs.
Perennial crops like alfalfa or alfalfa grass mixes will have two crop codes, one for pre-plant samples and guidelines and a second code for established stands to generate nutrient guidelines for topdress or maintenance applications to established stands.
ALE is the correct pre-plant code for the perennial crop ALFALFA. You would use this code for soil samples taken 6 months to a year before the crop is planted to allow adequate time for any applied limestone and fertilizer to react with the soil before the crop is planted.
ALT is the correct code for established stands of ALFALFA. You would use this code for soil samples taken from an established stand of alfalfa to determine the amount of lime or fertilizer needed for maintenance/topdress applications.
Take care to provide the appropriate codes for the current year, year 2 and year 3 to avoid unlikely crop sequences. An example of an unlikely crop sequence or rotation is shown below:
Year One ALE – Alfalfa Establishment
Year Two COS – Corn Silage
Year Three ALE – Alfalfa Establishment
It is unlikely that a farmer would go to the expense and effort to establish a new stand of alfalfa in year one, plow it down and plant corn in year 2 and replant alfalfa again in year three. A more probable Crop Code sequence would be ALE – ALT – ALT for a new seeding followed by two or more years of established alfalfa or ALT – COS – COS where Year one is the last year of alfalfa followed by 2 years of corn for silage.
Some vegetable crop codes are different for homeowner samples than for commercial vegetable crop codes. For example:
MIX is the correct code for mixed vegetables for the V Commercial Vegetable input sheet.
MVG is the correct code for mixed vegetables for the H Home Lawn & Garden input sheet.
Forms A, V, D1 and D2 will ask for crop codes for the prior 3 years as well as the current and 2 subsequent years. Prior crop history is used to provide comments relative to N requirements of the current and 2 future crops. You will receive nutrient guidelines for the current year and two following years if a valid crop code for all three years and all other required information is provided.
So, please review the crop codes and select those that best match the actual crops to be grown. This will help insure you receive appropriate interpretations and nutrient guidelines.
Forms and Documents
Agro-One Soil Testing Services
Agro-One provides state specific soil testing services with Agro-One recommendations based on the state guidelines plus New York specialized services with Cornell interpretations and nutrient guidelines.
It is important to use the correct sample input sheet so you receive the correct service and recommendations:
The following services include analysis and state specific guidelines provided by Agro-One.
|State and Service||Input Sheet|
|PA Mehlich 3 Analysis with Agro-One Guidelines||D1|
|NH Mehlich 3 Analysis with Agro-One Guidelines||D1|
|MD Mehlich 3 Analysis with FIV and Agro-One Guidelines||D1|
|VT Modified Morgan Analysis with Agro-One Guidelines||D2|
|Other states Mehlich 3 Analysis with Agro-One Guidelines||D1|
|NY Mehlich 3 Analysis with Morgan Equivalent values & Agro-One Guidelines||D1|
The following services include analysis by Agro-One with nutrient guidelines provided by Cornell University.
|New York samples with Cornell guidelines||Input Sheet|
|Field Crops - Morgan Analysis||A|
|Home & Landscape - Modified Morgan Analysis||H|
|Commercial Fruit - Modified Morgan Analysis||F|
|Commercial Vegetable - Modified Morgan Analysis||V|
|Commercial Turf - Modified Morgan Analysis||T|
Soil test results are available in the following forms:
– Printed (a copy of the report will be mailed to you)
– Electronic (a copy of the report will be e-mailed to you in PDF format)
– Web access (can be viewed on the web)
Dairy One Pre Sidedress Nitrogen Testing and Guidelines
Pre Sidedress Nitrogen Testing (PSNT) is used to determine if sidedress N is needed on corn with a history of manure or sod incorporation. The PSNT measures potentially mineralizable organic N in the soil to determine the likelihood of a yield response from sidedressed
PSNT’s should be run on corn fields two or more years after sod plow down where the manure rate is uncertain or may not meet the N requirements of the crop. A PSNT should also be run if N mineralization rates are expected to be higher than average (e.g., warm moist spring).
PSNT’s should not be run on corn fields that had broadcast N applications pre plant or early post plant since nitrate picked up from broadcast fertilizer could overestimate true N mineralization potential.
PSNT’s should not be run on first year corn after a grass sod with starter N since a response to sidedressed N is very unlikely unless the soil has a very high yield potential (Hamlin, Genesee, etc).
PSNT is not needed for first year corn following an alfalfa grass mixture since a response to sidedressed N is highly unlikely.
1. Limit sample area to < 15 acres.
2. Take a separate sample for areas that are different.
a. hybrid, population, growth stage, history, management, etc.
3. Sample when corn is 6 – 12 inches tall.
4. Wait 2-3 days after significant rainfall (due to nitrate leaching).
5. Sample between rows taking care to avoid the starter band.
6. Sample to a depth of 12 inches.
7. Dry the sample immediately to stop mineralization and send the samples to:
Dairy One Soils Lab
730 Warren Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
8. Pick up points are available in some areas.
9. Contact Dairy One Customer Service to find out if there is a pick up point near you. Phone: 1-800-344-2697 ext. 3.
10. Dairy One will report results within 24 hours after receiving your samples if they arrive Monday thru Friday.
|PSNT ppm Nitrate-N||Likelihood of an economic response to sidedressed N||N Guidelines|
|> 25||Low||No additional N needed|
|21-24||About 10%||Consider 25-50 lbs N/Acre if you expect a yield response|
|< 21||High||Apply sidedress N per Cornell N guidelines for corn|
1. When the PSNT is < 21.
a. Add extra N if you expected to need sidedress N (i.e., field received less manure than needed to meet crop N requirement).
b. Check field history & manure applications if you didn’t expect to need sidedressed N.
i. Low mineralization of organic-N early in the season may be off set when warm moist soil conditions resume.
• No additional N may be needed.
• Double check N requirements and only apply extra N if needed.
ii.PSNT may help identify those fields that did not receive the planned for amount of manure.
Forms and Documents:
NYS Corn N Calculator: nmsp.css.cornell.edu/nutrient_guidelines
www.rce.rutgers.edu Bulletin E285 Soil Nitrate Testing as a Guide to Nitrogen Management for Vegetable Crops Joseph R. Heckman, Ph.D.
Ship Dairy One and Agro-One Samples to:
Dairy One, 730 Warren Road, Ithaca, NY 14850
Sample Kits and Sample Information Sheets
Soil sample boxes are free of charge from Dairy One. (Boxes will say Agro-One)
You can request individual boxes or an entire carton of 225 sample boxes at the phone number listed above. Agro-One sample information sheets will be shipped with sample boxes as follows:
- 2 Sample information sheets with 10 boxes
- 20 Sample information sheets with 100 boxes
- 40 Sample information sheets with 200 boxes (one full carton)
Additional Agro-One sample information sheets can be copied or downloaded & printed off from the Agro One tab at www.DairyOne.com
Services are paid for as you use them. Payment can be made by personal check, credit card or billed to an existing Dairy One account or herd code.
Customers who expect to submit more than 50 samples per year (a total of 50 soil, manure, forage, water, etc) can set up an account by contacting forage customer service at 1.800.344.2697 x 3. There is no need to pay in advance but customers can put money on account if desired.
Prepaid Cornell kits will be honored. Dairy One will bill Cornell for services rendered.
- Free from any Dairy One Pickup Point
- Procedures, locations and schedule listed under Agro One tab at www.DairyOne.com
- Pick up points were created for the timely shipping of perishable milk samples and are found in areas where dairy farms are prevalent. Shipment by USPS, Fed Ex or UPS, etc. will be necessary from non-dairy areas or where pick-up points are not conveniently located.
- USPS (United States Postal Service)
- The cost to ship a single Agro-One Sample box is about $4.95.
- Priority Flat Rate Envelopes and Boxes will cost less if shipping more than one sample.
- Envelopes and boxes are free at any post office and can be ordered for free online.
- Ship up to 3 boxes in the flat rate envelope and mail it for $4.95.
- Two Medium boxes – each holds up to 14 sample boxes (about 16 pounds)
- $10.95 to ship any weight to any location (about 79 cents per box).
- One large size box – holds up to 21 sample boxes (about 25 pounds)
- $13.95 to ship any weight to any location (about 66 cents per box.)
- Envelopes and boxes are free at any post office and can be ordered for free online.
- UPS or other carrier
- Shipping cost will vary by weight and where shipped from but should be comparable to the USPS flat rate boxes.
- Customer Drop Off at Dairy One, 730 Warren Road, Ithaca NY
All Agro-One and Dairy One samples can be dropped off directly at Dairy One. Samples can be left at the drop off box located at the old milk loading dock.
Call or email our customer service department if you have other questions about ordering supplies, shipping and handling. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-344-2697, ext 3