Farm Service Center Co as a corporate business has only been doing soil samples since 1986 but the founding company United States Steel had been operating in this location since 1966 and worked with several laboratories in perfecting procedures and recommendations for this area from their beginning and had determined that the Laboratory procedures for the San Luis Valley delivered the best results by using laboratories with agronomy people located West of the I 25 corridor. Our soils are calcarious and different testing procedures are required to get accurate recommendations. Colorado State University developed a specific test, the Sodium Bicarbonate Method, for phosphorus which works best in our soils. Eastern labs use a Melick 3 test which is developed for acid soils. We have virtually 0 acid soils in the SLV although there are some that have gotten close. The Labs located in the West give the most accurate results and recommendations for our growing conditions.
That said we attack soil sampling in the following way:
We interact with you, the producer. You know your fields better then anyone so we want to know your highest producing areas and your lowest. What are your goals?
We try to sample about a foot deep and we try for 20 probes in each location to be mixed and sent as one sample. I say try because some areas are very rocky and penetrating a foot with a probe is nearly impossible so we do our best to sample the growing depth of that soil. We take these probes from random spots in each defined area. If you want a small area left out or sampled separately we do so. We have not gone the variable rate route as the San Luis Valley does not have the extreme variable soils as our neighbors in the rolling hills of KS, NE, TX or OK. Variable rates are very effective for nematode control and one of the consulting services here in the SLV does have that service. If there is an area that requires a separate rate or mix we can do that with a separate application to that area. We have trailers for rent so special areas may be treated either by the producer or one of our custom spreaders.
Each sample is labeled with field Id and crop to be grown plus past crop yield goals and particular challenges such as dry land or irrigation type.
It is then sent to the appropriate laboratory and agronomy service for testing and the results are returned to us via email. This is the reason we use private laboratories rather than CSU. The private labs have a much shorter turn around time. Usually two to three days from the time they receive them.
We then get with the producer and decide on the next step.