The Real Cost in Skipping Soil Sampling

The Real Cost in Skipping Soil Sampling

Fertilizer decisions for 2022

Aaron Young of Edd’s Supplies suggests taking a hard look at soil test results when making fertilizer decisions for 2022.

With news of looming supply shortages and increased costs, farmers are trying to find ways to cut 2022 production costs. Low budget items like soil sampling, which costs an average of $0.50 to $8 per acre (or roughly $10-$16 per sample), are often the first things to be eliminated. However, since maintaining optimum soil health can actually save producer’s money on expensive inputs, soil testing is a worthwhile investment.


“In years like this, soil sampling is a tool that can help you save on fertilizer bills and possibly be the difference between simply breaking even and turning a profit,” says Aaron Young, agronomist at Edd’s Supplies, Inc.


It may be tempting to consider limiting, or eliminating, your fertilizer purchases for 2022, but before making those decisions, Young encourages producers to look through their soil test data and make informed decisions. Using soil tests to identify levels of P and K, helps farmers identify which fields can withstand lowered fertilizer rates while still maintaining yield levels.


“I would strongly recommend looking through soil test data and identifying fields with less than adequate soil test levels and making those fields a priority when it comes to fertilizer application,” he says.

Beyond Yield Maps

Some farmers may opt to determine fertilizer rates with yield maps, rather than using soil sampling information. While Young admits using yield maps is better than nothing at all, but says they only provide a close estimation of nutrient removal. 


“Using soil samples, we can look at actual nutrient levels in the soil and provide farmers with the necessary information to make an informed decision that benefits them for not just the coming crop year but puts them in a position to continue improving their soil and their crops over time,” he says.


Each year, Young and the team at Edd’s Supplies, Inc., pull soil samples on roughly 35,000 acres. In the past, they’ve logged sample locations with Farm Works Mobile software and a Trimble Nomad device; however, since Farm Works is no longer supported, the company is transitioning to collecting samples using the Traction Field app.

Determining your nutrient removal goes beyond yield maps.

Released earlier this year, the Traction Agronomy platform launched a complete workflow from soil sampling to creating recommendations – all from a phone or tablet. In farming, time is always of the essence, and this app will reduce the time to create prescriptions, cut hours of tedious steps and guide producers in making sound agronomic decisions.


“One major advantage the Traction platform has over Farm Works is the speed at which we can view soil test level maps and create recommendations,” Young says. “With Farm Works, we have to merge the CSV files from the lab with our GPS points in order to bring them into the system, then create new layers in the program for our test level maps and finally add an additional layer with our fertilizer recommendations,” Young explains. “Traction does the merging of the files and creation of the soil test level maps for us, so all we have to do is choose our formulas in the program and enter in a few variables to create our fertilizer recommendations.


“The time saved in the creation of these maps is going to be one of the greatest benefits to our company,” he adds.

The Financial Impact

Traction uses your actual financial transactions and ties the information back to your agronomy practices.

With two different versions – Traction Professional and Basic Agronomy – the app appeals to service providers like Young as well as farmers. Traction Professional enables service providers and agronomists to manage an unlimited number of farmers in one cloud-based system, while offering seamless integration with soil labs, making it easy to view soil test results and build simple variable rate fertility prescriptions.


For farmers, the Traction Field app allows them to log their own soil sample locations and use a formula to create a fertility prescription. The agronomy platform’s key benefit is its ability to fully integrate with the other Traction solutions: Accounting and Field Operations.


“This level of functionality is unique as farmers can take their agronomic data and apply true costs from accounting entries,” says Jeff Dearborn, Traction’s Business Development Director. “Now farmers can see the financial impact of their agronomic decision making with a clear return on investment.”

Regardless of what program producers use to collect and analyze their soil sample data, Young encourages them to focus on their cost of production.


“Think about fertilizer prices in terms of bushels rather than dollars,” Young recommends. “If you save $30 per acre in fertilizer, is your yield hit going to be less than that, or is that reduced rate going to end up costing you more than applying the full rate?”


With the current price spikes, farmers are being forced to make some difficult decisions. In times like this, making smart decisions has never been more important. Having access to data about all aspects of an operation is critical in ensuring those decisions will enhance, or at least maintain, yield potential and protect the bottomline.

  • Jessie Topp Becker
    Growing up actively involved in my family's diversified crop and beef cattle operation cultivated my passion in agriculture from an early age. My exceptional written and verbal communication skills were developed through participation in various 4-H and FFA activities, as well as my employment as a farm broadcaster with the Red River Farm Network. My goal is to use my agricultural knowledge and exceptional communication skills to help the agriculture industry effectively communicate with stakeholders.
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