Does Grid Sampling Really Pay?

The costs to identify nutrient variability can be minimal while helping you put fertilizer where it needs to be for even greater returns.

 Soil sampling season is definitely here, and many producers are now using grid or management zone sampling rather than low-density soil sampling. 

Grid sampling has been around for many years, but we still receive questions whether it’s a good investment.

The more variable your fields, the more valuable grid sampling is to find and correct nutrient-deficient areas. The only way to determine if fields contain highly variable nutrient levels is to grid sample them at least once. Just because a field is flat and seems uniform, doesn’t mean that field’s soil tests will come out uniform.

Revealing Variability

Last year, we sampled our whole farm on 2-acre grids. We learned where the variability was located and we now have a better understanding of how to fertilize our fields.

In Table 1, you can see how results of potassium soil tests in a field sampled with a more standard manner of seven samples for 54 acres compared to 27 samples on 2-acre grids.


Standard sampling showed that about 86% of the samples were in the optimum to high range and 14% were in the very high range, indicating the field contains very good fertility.

However, grid sampling showed that 7.5% of the samples were in the low range, 70% were in the optimum to high range and 22% were in the very high to extremely high range.

The grid sampling revealed the acres (7.5%) that needed additional fertility. These areas of the field will likely continue to fall in potassium tests…

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Leverich jim

Jim Leverich

No-Till Farmer's Conservation Ag Operator Fellow for 2022, Jim Leverich is a no-till farmer near Sparta, Wis. His 1,000 acre-farm has been in his family since 1864 and no-tilled since 1984. An innovator and educator, Leverich has 35-plus years of no-till and on-farm research experience, and possesses a deep, practical understanding of what makes no-till work. For his contributions while at the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service, Leverich was named the No-Till Innovator of the Year (Research & Education category) in 2006. A talented presenter and writer, Leverich was a regular guest columnist for No-Till Farmer in 2011 when it earned the Gold Medal as the nation’s top newsletter from the American Society of Business Press Editors.

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