If you are in the hay or other crop business for yourself or for selling to others, you might consider the benefits of analyzing your soil before you till it up for replanting or if you just want to add nutrients to increase your production.
It can cost up to $50 per soil sample for a nutrient analysis. Other specialized tests may cost more, but that is the basic cost. You need sample for every soil type in your field, although you can average the soil types to keep costs reasonable.
Why would you do this? A 40-acre field can cost upwards of $100 per acre for soil nutrients (fertilizer), so that totals $4,000 in input costs just to try to get that extra ton per acre of hay.
If that $50 sampling cost could save you $10 per acre in nutrient application, then that saving is $400, an eight-to-one return for the cost of sampling analysis. That is a good return.
We are entering a new era where you will need a nutrient management plan before applying a lot of nutrients to the land. This is because over-fertilizing has led to soil and water contamination. It is also bad economics and bad agriculture.
To really know what you are doing, soil sampling is a must.
If you are interested in feeding the soil biology, which can produce free nutrients from the soil and atmosphere, then it might be more complicated to get recommendations, but the soil sample is the place to start.
You have to be sure to get the soil biology analyzed and be sure the lab you choose is capable of doing this. In the end, it will save you money.
Getting agronomy advice can be difficult, but this is the way to no over-spend on you input costs. Which can drive up you production costs.
You might consider doing different trials of reseeding or adding amendments to your soil.
Put your cost of information to work for you.
David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake.