Greg’s Intel: What Soil Sampling Is and How It Can Inform Nutrient Management Decisions

Collecting and analyzing samples from the soil plays an important role in helping growers reach their optimal yields. While there are many yield-affecting external factors–such as rainfall–that are primarily out of our control, the nutrient levels in your soil can be managed. For this reason, we will discuss what soil sampling is, how it plays a part in nutrient management decisions, and explore E4’s grower-dedicated sampling process.

What Is Soil Sampling?

Just like going to the doctor to get bloodwork done to monitor your body’s health, soil sampling is a test that allows growers to gauge the overall nutrient levels in their fields. Soil is collected from a field (using a soil probe or auger), bagged up, and sent to an agricultural testing lab for analysis. The tests evaluate and identify micronutrients such as organic matter, pH, buffer pH, phosphorus (P), potassium (K), nitrate-nitrogen (N), calcium, magnesium, along with a host of other available nutrients in the soil. Some labs, such as E4’s approved labs, will put together a comprehensive analysis report of each sample.

To see how nutrient levels change over time, soil samples are commonly collected every two to four years for most crops. The timing of the sampling depends on how fields are managed, whether manure has been applied, different conservation practices, crop history, etc.

How Does This Testing Inform Nutrient Management Decisions?

Each year, growers are tasked with the challenge of managing their field inputs in a way that decreases yield-loss risks while also maximizing profitability. These test reports identify metrics on the condition of each elemental micronutrient. This data, along with additional plant tissue analytics, help piece together a picture of possible nutrient deficiencies.

By properly interpreting the reports, growers can hone in on their field needs and be more diligent on fertilizer application decisions. In the end, soil sampling assists growers with managing nutrients, variable costs, and reaching ideal yield goals.

E4’s Soil Sampling Process: Made To Help You Make Better Decisions

My team and the company’s proprietary software are ready to help growers become equipped with the right insight and knowledge for making those all-important management decisions. E4’s soil sampling process is meticulously thorough. When we visit your field, we collect cores in a precise, uniform manner. Each core is deposited in a bag with a unique sample ID, which is also connected to GPS coordinates. That way, we can optimize the nutrients in precise areas of the field.

Once bagged and tagged, the samples are processed at a lab that has been approved to meet our standards. For customers that use the informative E4 Crop Intelligence software platform, lab results are sent directly to the software’s Agronomic Testing module. With the results analyzed, a fertilizer prescription can be provided one field at a time, or after entering a comprehensive crop plan, can be generated automatically. Customers using E4’s Fertility Prescription service can easily access the prescriptions and have the ability to access and build advanced equations. The Fertility Rx software module can use that report to create blanket and variable rate application cards. Customers will have this data stored in the software’s Data Bank, allowing for year-over-year comparative analysis.

If you seek more insight into the best course of action for your field, we are here to make sure your soil analysis needs are met. Give us a call at 712.647.2666 or email our team at