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Sample Soil to Make Better Seed Decisions

January 5, 2018
This image shows corn roots in soil

Before selecting 2018 hybrids and varieties, growers are encouraged to first conduct soil analysis tests. Knowing the pH levels of your fields is key to adjusting soil composition and starting strong before the season ever begins.

That’s why for nearly 2 decades, Syngenta breeders have tested hybrid and variety responses to different pH levels. pH measures relative acidity or alkalinity of the soil, and soils typically range on a scale from 3.5 to 10, with the optimum target being from 6 to 7. Nutrients such as phosphorus, manganese and zinc become less available when pH exceeds 7.5. Here are the 3 different pH levels and what you can do about your test results:

  • Low pH: Soil acidity increases as pH drops below 7 (neutral pH), so if you see field results below 5.5, you may want to consider a lime application.
  • High pH: Soil alkalinity increases as pH rises above 7 (neutral pH), so in instances of field results above 7.8, using the proper combination and placement nutrients is important to aid in plant uptake. Varietal selection tolerant to high pH in both corn and soybeans is critical to a successful crop.
  • Ideal pH: Levels between 6 and 7 are optimum, so when your fields test within this window, you’re right where you should be.

Standardized testing is conducted in Nebraska 4 times a year on a 10-acre plot before NK® corn and soybeans are categorized for a particular pH level. All NK hybrids and varieties are measured alongside competitor products such as those from DeKalb and Pioneer. The 4 stages at which hybrids and varieties are measured for pH include: emergence, V5-V6 and twice during the reproductive stages. NK corn and soybeans are closely evaluated for target pH levels to help ensure the best product placement in your fields, which helps optimize plant health and yield.

As for managing the pH levels on your own operation, collect soil samples from a depth of 6 to 8 inches every 2 to 4 years. Sampling soil 3 to 6 months before planting the next crop allows enough time to develop a nutrient plan to address what your pH might demand. Late fall or early winter is a great time to discover what is going on beneath the surface. As a rule of thumb, obtain 15 to 20 soil cores for an area of 20 acres or less, and clean your sampling instruments to avoid contamination as you go from one field location to another.

Having an accurate overview of your fields’ pH levels will not only get you off to a strong start at planting, but also help you get through the season. Speak with your NK sales representative or NK retailer with questions about soil solutions or for additional agronomic insights.

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