Soil testing provides producers and homeowners important information concerning the fertility status of the soil. This information can help produce better crops and reduce costs by guiding management decisions like the type and amount of fertilizers to apply. If you plan to do your own soil sampling and use the K-State Soil Testing Laboratory, the following outline provides specific information on methods for collecting soil samples and mailing instructions.

• To take a sample, you will need a probe, auger or spade, and a clean pail. (If you’re also having the soil analyzed for zinc, be sure to use a plastic container to avoid contamination from galvanized buckets or material made of rubber.) You will also need soil sample containers and a soil information sheet from your local Extension office or fertilizer dealer.

• Draw a map of the sample area on the information sheet and divide your fields into uniform areas. Each area should have the same soil texture, color, slope, and fertilization and cropping history.

• From each area, take a sample of 20-30 cores or slices for best results. At the very minimum, 12-15 cores should be taken per sample. Mix the cores thoroughly in a clean container and fill your soil sample container. For available nitrogen, chloride, or sulfur tests, a subsoil sample to 24 inches is necessary.

• Avoid sampling in old fencerows, dead furrows, low spots, feeding areas, or other areas that might give unusual results. If information is desired on these unusual areas, obtain a separate sample from the area.

• Be sure to label the soil container clearly and record the numbers on the soil container and the information sheet.

• Air-dry the samples as soon as possible for the available nitrogen test. (Air drying before shipment is recommended, but not essential, for all other tests.) Do not use heat for drying.

• Fill out the information sheet obtained from your Extension office, or download a sheet.

• Take the samples to your local Research and Extension office for shipping.

— Ryan Flaming is a Kansas State Research and Extension agent for Harvey County. Agriculture is his specialty. He can be reached at 316-284-6930.