Making Hay
Week of October 26th, 2003 | The weather was getting colder.

Taking a soil sample.

Taking a soil sample.

Hi! The temperatures are dropping. We are still picking corn, but are not far off from being finished. (We had a couple of breakdowns this past week, otherwise we would probably be done). The wind picked up on Saturday, so when Dad and I picked corn, the husks blew out and the ear corn was very clean. The cribs are getting full of ear corn. It looks like our yields are quite good for our corn crop this year. The ears are long, full, and a really nice yellow color.

This is the time of the year that soil tests are usually taken. I just recently did this for Dad and sent them in for analysis. Now we wait for the results. Taking soil tests are an important way to learn about the soils in your fields. Soil tests will reveal the acidity of the soil. (Ph chart- 1 is very acidic, 7 is neutral, and 14 is very basic.) Soil should be between 6.2 and 6.8 on the Ph scale. The soil condition of nutrient fertility will be found, as well. The test will show how much available nitrogen, phosphate and potassium are ready for the coming crop.

To take soil tests, you need the following objects: soil probe, probe cleaner (Bamboo rod), a bucket (either 5-gallon pail or ice cream bucket), soil sample bags, and a pen.

It is really easy to do a soil test with an ATV (all terrain vehicle). You have to take a few samples in different areas in the field. An ATV is a fast way to move around. Push the soil probe as far into the ground as possible. It might help if you turn it as you push it into the ground. After it is in as far as possible, turn the probe 360 degrees. (This will help keep the soil in the probe.) If the soil is dry, it should fall right out of the probe and into the bucket. If not, use the Bamboo stick to clean probe. (Push it up the open end.) In a 35-acre field, you should take about a dozen samples. In a 10-acre field, you should take about 4-6 samples. After all the samples are in the bucket, crumple the soil up and mix it by hand. Next, put the soil samples in a soil sample bag. You can get these bags from your local Extension Office. The bags should have a fill line. Don't pack the soil- keep it loose. Close the bag. Mark it with a field number, sample number, etc. with your name on it. Then, you can send the soil sample(s) to a science lab (can get information from your local Extension Office). You should have the test results back in about two weeks.

If the soil is too basic or having a high PH then sulfur will lower that condition. If it is too acidic, then you should add ground limestone or in our situation, eggshells. We have three main ways to fertilize our soil.

    1.Have animals graze on the field (eat the grass from pasture, or clean up left-over grain in a harvested field).


    2.Spread compost (manure) on field.


    3.Spread eggshells on field (same as compost)- either plane or mixed with compost.

After the field is fertilized, it should be worked up with a plow, field cultivator, disc, etc. to incorporate the fertilizer into the soil.

Soil should be 25% air, 25% water, 5% organic matter (crop residue- stalks, dried up leaves, etc.), and 45% mineral. What's in soil? Calcium, potash, rocks, and nitrogen.

Earthworms are very good for soil. They leave holes in the soil for air, water, and nutrients. You should not use chemicals on the soil, but use cover crops and crop rotation to keep the earthworms healthy. They are very important for keeping good soil in your fields. How do you count earthworms? Go in a field and mark out a square foot (square that is one foot by one foot in size). Then, water that square foot area. In good soil, you should have about 20 earthworms come up. There is 43,560 square feet in one acre. That means in good soil, there should be about 871,200 earthworms in an acre! Just think about the number of earthworms in a 35-acre field!

Farm Fact: This past week, Dad moved the cowherd on a harvested cornfield and a harvested soybean field. By doing this operation, livestock can clean up any left over grain that the combine spilled or missed. It also saves pasture and feed- you do not need to feed the livestock because they have the left over grain for food.

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