Soil Sampling Defined – Discover Your Land’s Elemental Diversity

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Throughout the history of the agricultural studies, there has been an emphasis on applying the same scientific methods that are also used in other industries. There have been many successes, but also many failures along the way. Not all scientific applications apply in agriculture due to the earth’s ever changing landscape; it’s a living system after all.

Soil science and specifically soil sampling are one of those areas of agriculture. Many times it makes you scratch your head and wonder, “what the heck happened?” Just when soil scientists feel they have a good grasp on a given action and expectation, something changes. This is what causes the expected results to differ from what was expected.

Soil sampling is one of those areas that have been up for discussion for decades because of those unexpected changes. Here we explore exactly what soil sampling is, and what is requires from your farms:

What is Soil Sampling?

Soil sampling is much more of an art than a science. Essentially agricultural soil sampling is the activity of collecting samples that aim to discover the elemental diversity of an acreage. If the land is sampled and analyzed properly, the elemental concentration of the sampled area can be accurately measured. The reason it’s more of an art than a science because not all soil is the same. Soil varies from region to region, and sometimes even neighborhood to neighborhood. It requires a trained eye to decide where the most proper sampling should take place. 

General soil sampling requires taking many cylindrical core samples from a depth of 6 to 7 inches. The reason 6 to 7 inches is the perfect depth is because at that depth, over an acre of land there is 2,000,000 pounds of soil. From this 2,000,000 pounds of soil, the elements are measured and referred back to the 2,000,000 pounds. As an example, if the soil report says there is 200 pounds per acre of potassium, that means there is 200 pounds out of that 2,000,000 pounds that is potassium. This makes it easier to find solutions to imbalances in your soil as a whole.


The art of this process truly comes into play when distinguishing the area to sample. The sampling professional needs to understand the inheritances that may occur within the sample areas, as well as a few other very important aspects, such as:

  • What is the history of the area as to how it has been farmed?
  • What direction has the area been farmed?
  • What does the soil look like?

Those questions and many others, should always stay in the mind of the soil sampling professional in order to control as many of the potential issues that cause change as is possible.

There Is More to Soil Sampling Than What Meets the Eye

A professional working with soil needs to understand that there are many potential pitfalls in the sampling process that can cause erroneous information to come back. Understanding and taking appropriate steps to guarantee those errors are avoided as is possible is truly imperative so that proper samples can be obtained.



Written By

Randy Darr

Randy Darr

Agronomist |

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