Grant Date… I Mean “Data”:) Part One

It’s date night on the farm, and tonight, for our hot date, Dan and I headed out to use our new toys, a soil probe and a Soil Compaction Tester, purchased with grant dollars from the good state of Minnesota.  What fun! 

Field 1: Winter Rye Cover Crop: Sheep Grazed 5 days
Field 3: Three week old strawberry plants

We spent 90 peaceful minutes walking through the farm to get six soil samples.  We used the soil probe to collect about ten soil samples from the top 8 inches randomly selected from inside the field block.  Dan did all the probing, while I wandered after him, holding the bucket of dirt.  Not every wife gets treated to an evening of entertainment like this!  I had the relaxing task of mixing the dirt in the bucket, and then pouring it into the labeled sample bags.  

Mixing probed soil to obtain sampling mixture
Soil Samples to Midwest Labs in Omaha, NE for the Complete Soil Health Test

After we’d collected all the soil samples, Dan wanted to try the Soil Compaction Tester.  We randomly did a bunch of spots in our cover crop field and our strawberry fields.  The grazed field had a good reading until 18″, and the planted field had good readings to a 12″ depth.  It was interesting to see how the depth was fairly consistent over the field.  By this time, it was getting dark, and Dan’s back was hurting from pushing these tools in and out of the wet dirt, so we called it a night. 

Field 1: Compaction Tester in Recently Grazed soil
Field 1: Our first tour group June 3, 2019, watching the sheep graze.

We will take more compaction testing readings throughout the growing season, and a set of soil samples from each of our six field blocks the next two years.  

Hopefully, our soil health improves.  The last time we tested, our  organic content was 4.6.  Soil test success will be an increase in organic content in all blocks except the corn/beans block.  I’ll post test results here when they arrive.

Less tangible in terms of measurement will be the ways we will educate groups who come through our farm,  and the way Dan and I will be delighted over the years by our sheep and our crops and this opportunity to play with farming variables.  

Leave a Comment