Why Use Zone Sampling to Improve Overall Soil Health?

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When soil sampling is combined with zone sampling techniques, you are presented with delineating areas of difference from each other before the sampling process. Also known as “Smart Sampling,” the individual developing the zones requires a great deal of training in order to understand where soils change. Whether the change is soil type, topography, drainage, past farming practices, the direction of applications, and any other criteria that may be pertinent to the needs of the grower. 

Process of Zone Sampling

The zones will be sampled in diagonal patterns in order to take out potential problems from previous farming applications. Areas are generally about the size of 8 to 12 acres with 15 to 18 probes of soil taken from each sample area. The number of probes of soil for a sample is critical to capture a picture of the nutrient levels of a given area. Once samples are obtained and data gathered, recommendations can be made for the application to each area using real data.

Over time yield data can be applied in order to add another layer of information that can help in adjusting zones for future sampling events. Therefore, in the whole process of developing zones, there is quite the amount of information that can be used to make the zones represent how the field actually produces. Other sampling processes fail to do this as accurately.


Soil Sampling and Surveys

What makes zone sampling such an adequate method relates much to surveys. When a polling organization takes on the task of finding out information they are looking to get their data from a given segment of people. They group these people using criteria such as age, gender, socio-economic status, and other aspects felt to be desirable to get a correct answer. Once the criteria are determined, a certain number of individuals are chosen to complete the survey. The survey achieves accuracy by the sheer number of those surveyed.

The soil works in a similar fashion. Accuracy is achieved by taking a great number of probes within an area of likeness. Are the numbers that are found an absolute number? No, but neither is any other method. In working with the living environment of the soil that would be virtually impossible, however, an absolute number isn’t necessary for a quality recommendation. 

Understanding how the elemental changes occur within the field and the general levels of nutrients are the most important part in making high-quality fertility recommendations. Soil fertility is not an event  it is a process. The primary goal should be moving forward to achieve soil health.

For more information about soil sampling, check out this related post, “Soil Sampling Defined – Discover Your Land’s Elemental Diversity.”

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Written By

Randy Darr

Randy Darr

Agronomist | gooddirt@soilright.com

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