The first thing Jeff Schoenau likes to do when assessing soil is dig.
Schoenau is Ministry of Agriculture Strategic Research Chair and professor at the University of Saskatchewan and he believes digging a soil pit can give a good indication of the vertical distribution of nutrients in a given area. But, as tiring as digging a pit may be, the work doesn’t stop there.
“In a sampling strategy for a no-till field, what we’ve found, what can work best, is actually if you take a slab, or a slice of soil across [the] seed and fertilizer rows, maybe 30-40cm. Then take that slab and combine the soil together and that will give you a pretty good idea of the availability of nutrients in that area of the soil.”
But variability extends even beyond seed rows, up hilltops and down knolls. That’s where a good soil probe and patience enter the ring.
In the video below, Schoenau shows us a soil profile at Scott, Saskatchewan, explaining the significance of assessing horizons and taking an abundance of soil samples, all while emphasizing the importance of accounting for variability.