Google Translate Disclaimer

A number of pages on the Government of Saskatchewan`s web site have been professionally translated in French. These translations are identified by a yellow text box that resembles the link below and can be found in the right hand rail of the page. The home page for French-language content on this site can be found here:

Renseignements en Français

Where an official translation is not available, Google™ Translate can be used. Google™ Translate is a free online language translation service that can translate text and web pages into different languages. Translations are made available to increase access to Government of Saskatchewan content for populations whose first language is not English.

The results of software-based translation do not approach the fluency of a native speaker or possess the skill of a professional translator. The translation should not be considered exact, and may include incorrect or offensive language Government of Saskatchewan does not warrant the accuracy, reliability or timeliness of any information translated by this system. Some files or items cannot be translated, including graphs, photos, and other file formats such as portable document formats (PDFs).

Any person or entities that rely on information obtained from the system does so at his or her own risk. Government of Saskatchewan is not responsible for any damage or issues that may possibly result from using translated website content. If you have any questions about Google™ Translate, please visit: Google™ Translate FAQs.

Fall Soil Testing

By Kim Stonehouse, PAg, Regional Crops Specialist, Tisdale

September 2017

Although the 2017 crop is not yet in the bin, some items should be considered immediately after harvest. For example, post-harvest soil testing is always a good practice in order to make the most efficient use of the fertility dollar, and fall is a good time to do this. This year, some unusual conditions could make soil testing even more important.

In most years, under good growing conditions, nutrients in the soil will have been used up by crops or may have been displaced due to leaching and denitrification. This year, due to the lower precipitation, some nutrients may not have been completely used or have otherwise been displaced. This makes it very difficult to estimate exactly what has been left behind and the only way to know for sure is to do a soil test.

The most important thing to remember is that a soil test is only as good as the soil sample taken. It is generally recommended that a minimum of 16 samples per field be taken. The more samples you take, the more your accuracy will improve, especially in larger fields. Avoid taking samples from irregular areas of the field. If you hire someone to collect your soil samples, it’s a good idea go with them to point out unrepresentative areas in the field, or give accurate directions to avoid these areas.

Soil testing on a regular basis has certain advantages. It will not only help to establish upcoming crop nutrient needs but it will also monitor changes in nutrient levels over time and will assist in nutrient management planning. Taking this one step further, you may want to pick representative sites, mark them with GPS and sample these same sites each year. This is known as fertility benchmarking and it will allow you to observe the effects of different crops and fertilizer rates on the residual nutrient load in that field.

Another benefit of soil testing is the report can indicate other factors that may need to be addressed or considered when developing a nutrient management plan. In addition to macro- and micronutrient levels, a soil test will indicate a host of soil characteristics, such as soil texture, pH, salinity rating, organic matter content and the cation exchange capacity.

When soil sampling in the fall, care should be taken to ensure that the soil temperature has dropped below 10° C. This will minimize the risk of nitrogen mineralization before freeze-up. Mineralization is the process where nitrogen, in its organic form, is converted to a plant-available form by soil microbial activity. Lower soil temperatures ensure that this activity has ceased and that the nitrogen levels measured in the fall are less likely to change before spring. Soil phosphorus and potassium are generally less affected by sampling date.

While soil testing can be done in the fall or spring, fall testing ensures that results will be available for fertility planning long before they are needed. Additionally, knowing fertility needs in the fall can give the option to purchase some or all of the crop nutrients early, as it is difficult to predict fertilizer prices.

We need your feedback to improve Help us improve