Soil testing 101

We harvested our first crop of alfalfa/orchard grass hay on May 21. In order to know how much fertilizer to put on the hay ground we have to take soil cores and send them in for analysis. This will tell us what we need to put on for good hay yields for the rest of the season (alfalfa usually yields 3 cuttings a year, sometimes 4 in a good year).

 

takingsoilcores_05232016

Step one: Obtain a soil probe and sample bags from your local farmer cooperative. Use the soil probe to take a core. Push the probe into the soil by standing on the foot arm.

pullingsoilcore_05232016

Step two: Pull the probe back up from the ground. Open the probe, make sure there is at least 8 inch core, and deposit it into the bucket. In a five acre field, take 5-10 cores.

fillingsoilsamplebag_05232016

Step three: Mix the cores in the bucket by hand until they are well mixed together. Then, fill the soil test bag to the indicated line and take in for analysis.

Recommendations from the University of Nebraska indicate that alfalfa requires P and K for good yields. A worksheet for calculating hay expenses from Iowa State University might be useful as well. For historical perspective, look at this 1912 publication on growing alfalfa in Iowa.

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