November 08, 2019

Growers not delaying fall tillage long enough to collect soil samples

With the late harvest, growers are pushing hard to get fall tillage completed to address compaction from both last fall and this spring. In some cases, producers are not even waiting for soil sample collection or fertilizer applications.

Fall tillage will leave the soil surface 1-3 inches higher than before the tillage operation. A sampling depth of 6 inches before tillage becomes 7-9 inches due to the reduced density of the tilled soil. Many soil probe designs will push the soil away rather than collect the soil. Collecting a proper depth soil sample becomes nearly impossible. Some sources recommend driving over the soil surface and taking the samples from the tire tracks, this can lead to too deep of a sample.

If any fertilizer was applied prior to the fall tillage being completed, it is recommended to wait until next spring to collect soil samples.

If a field has been tilled before soil samples have been collected, soil sampling needs to be delayed by a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks to allow the soil to settle to a density that can be accurately sampled. The time needed for soils to settle can increase under deep or aggressive fall tillage operations. It is best to wait until next spring to collect samples. Incorrect sampling depth will bias a soil sample much more than the seasonal variability between spring and fall soil samples.

October 30, 2019

Soil Sampling Lubricants

Fall weather is generally full of ups and downs. As the weather turns cooler and the wind picks up, many of you are rushing to complete last-minute soil sampling before the ground freezes. Cold and wet weather can complicate the sampling process, and can cause great frustration when samples begin to stick in the probe. However, using a lubricant can help to reduce the sticking of samples in the probe and make the process work a bit easier on the sampler.

A number of different lubricants have been evaluated over the years for their effectiveness as a sampling aid and their impact on the analysis results. Two of the most commonly recommended lubricants are either WD-40, or aerosol cooking sprays such as Pam. Either of these products act as a water dispersant, effectively creating a film on the metal that repels water and limits the sticking within the tube. From anecdotal evidence, WD-40 tends to be a bit more persistent on the probe than does cooking spray, and therefore tends to require less frequent application.

The effect of either material generally has a negligible effect on measured levels of macronutrients. There is some evidence that suggests micronutrient levels may be affected somewhat, but the effect is generally pretty minor. WD-40 tends to affect micronutrient levels less than cooking spray, so it is recommended when micronutrients are to be analyzed. This may be more significant in soils that are naturally low in micronutrients because the slight variation in levels will be a larger percentage of the total levels. However, if the use of lubricants results in better quality sample collection, the benefits of using a lubricant should greatly outweigh any potential for contamination from the lubricant itself.

September 30, 2019

UPS RS Label Expiration Dates

UPS RS labels can be printed at any time, and there are no charges associated with the labels until they are used. This means they can be printed in advance and ready to use when you are already to ship. One challenge in printing UPS RS labels too early is that the tracking capabilities for a given label decline 12 – 16 months after creation.


The date of creation can be tracked directly on the label. If you are nearing the expiration date printed on the UPS RS labels, you can request new labels by calling/emailing the lab, calling/emailing your ALGL agronomy sales representative, or ordering via our on-line store at

2 Easy Steps to Shipping Samples:

1.     Order Boxes – We offer 4 convenient boxes for soil sample shipment. Order the boxes and associated labels online or by calling the lab. You purchase the boxes and we ship them with the labels to you at our cost.

2.     Pack Your Samples – Place the samples in the box so that they will not spill in shipment, tape the box shut, and affix the UPS RS label on the box. The box can be part of your usual UPS pickup, dropped off at a UPS pickup location, or you can call UPS to schedule a pickup. There may be a cost associated with a UPS on site pickup, please inquire with your local UPS representative.

You are not charged for the UPS RS labels until they are scanned by UPS upon pickup. The cost of the shipment is calculated using our discount, and that amount is transferred to your invoice. The cost of the sample analysis and shipping come to you on one invoice.


September 30, 2019

Keep Your Samples Safe!

With the growing season winding down, many of you are beginning to think ahead to collecting fall soil samples. With the time and effort that you put into collecting those samples, we want to make sure that they arrive safe and sound, and in good condition. Following are some suggestions to ensure that your samples arrive safely and can be processed without delay.

  1. Use appropriate sample containers. Soil samples in paper envelopes and liquid samples in ziplock bags may be lost in shipment. We can provide you with the correct bags, bottles and boxes.
  2. Send a sample that is representative of the material you are testing. Very small and extremely large volumes of samples may affect the analysis results.
  3. Make sure all sample containers are closed and securely fastened. If a sample can spill… it will. 
  4. Include a sample submittal form that lists all of the sample information, reference information, tests requested, special information, and your account number. Submittal forms can be found at, or you can contact the laboratory.  
  5. Pack your box carefully. Using the sample submittal form as your packing order can help you identify when a sample is missing before you ship the box.
  6. Use a shipping box that is the right size. Small samples packed in large boxes can bounce around and be damaged in shipment.  Pack open spaces with crumpled newspaper.
  7. Use a shipping box that is rated for the weight that you’re shipping. We receive boxes each year which have broken apart from the weight of the samples.
  8. Protect your back – and ours. Avoid shipping overweight sample boxes.  Our chiropractor will thank you.
  9. Make sure your return address is on the shipping box – even if it is inside one of the box flaps. This can help determine who to contact in case of a problem.
  10. If you are shipping samples in multiple boxes, please mark the boxes 1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3… this will help the lab technicians get your boxes back together, and will help us determine if a box is missing in shipment.
September 30, 2019

Helpful Tips for Submitting Fertilizer Samples

Quality analysis begins with a quality sample. When submitting fertilizer materials to the lab for analysis, please remember these helpful suggestions:

  1. Paperwork
  • Send in a completed ‘Fertilizer & Lime Sample Submittal Form’ with your sample.  This can be found on our website at   Please be sure to include:
  • Account number. If you do not have an account with us, be sure to add your name, address, and phone number.
  • Email address if you would like your report emailed to you.
  • Analysis that you desire.
  • Approximate Analysis of your fertilizer, if known. This not necessary, but cuts down on the turnaround time by eliminating the need to do preliminary testing to determine which method is most appropriate.


  1. Submitting Liquid Fertilizers
  • When sending in a liquid sample, it is very important not to ship in a glass container. Instead choose a plastic bottle for liquid fertilizers. 
  • We need around 4-8 ounces of liquid fertilizer for most tests.
  • Please leave a little head space in your container so that the sample can expand if necessary, and so we can mix the sample properly.
  • Wrap electrical tape around the top of your sealed container. This helps ensure that the cap will not come loose during shipment.


  1. Submitting Dry Fertilizers
  • Place dry fertilizers in a “Ziploc” type baggie. We suggest that you double bag it to help contain sample if it leaks.
  • We need around 1 cup of dry fertilizer for analysis.


  1. Submitting Lime Samples
  • We need approximately 2 cups of limestone sample if sieve work is needed and 1 cup if it is not. If your sample is a wet sludgy type, we will need closer to 3-4 cups. Use the sampling container most appropriate for the material to be tested.

If you have any questions about submitting lime or fertilizer samples, please call Diane, fertilizer department manager, or one of our agronomists at 260-483-4759 and we will be happy to help.

September 30, 2019

Corn Stalk Nitrate Testing

The Corn Stalk Nitrate Test (CSNT) was developed by Iowa State University agronomists to determine if growers were using the proper amounts of nitrogen for corn production.  This is assessed by measuring the amount of nitrate - nitrogen present in the lower portion of the corn stalk around the time the plant reaches physiological maturity.  Corn plants suffering from inadequate N availability remove N from the lower cornstalks and leaves during the grain-filling period.  Corn plants that have more N than needed to attain maximum yields, however, accumulate nitrate in their lower stalks at the end of the season.  Several factors, including weather, can have a profound effect on the results of the test.


Samples should be collected between 1/4 milkline to 3 weeks after black layer has formed on 80% of the kernels of most ears.  Field test areas should not be larger than 10 acres.  Collect 15 stalks and remove an 8” segment between 6” and 14” above the soil.  Place in paper bag (not plastic). Refrigerate if delay in shipping is one or more days.  Do not freeze.



Less than 250 ppm

Indicates high probability that greater availability of N would have resulted in higher yields.  Visual signs of N deficiency are usually observed in this range.


250 - 700 ppm nitrate-N (ISU)

Producers should not be concerned when samples test in this range. N availability was close to the minimum amount needed for maximum yields but should not be the target for good nitrogen management.


250-2000 ppm nitrate-N (Purdue), 700-2000 ppm nitrate-N (ISU)

Indicates that N supplies were sufficient for maximum yields.


Greater than 2000 ppm nitrate-N

Indicates that N supplies were above levels needed to maximize profits.


The CSNT does not directly indicate how much a N application should be increased or decreased.  However, the use of this test consistently from year to year can be a valuable tool when adjusting N rates.  Since the development of this test, nitrogen prices have increased substantially, increasing the need for sound nitrogen management.  In addition, nitrogen in ground and surface waters can be a major environmental concern.  From both an environmental and an economic perspective, any tool that can help a grower manage nitrogen usage should be seriously considered.  Additional information on the corn stalk nitrate test can be found in our factsheet, “Corn Stalk Nitrate Test”, available on our website.

September 30, 2019

2020 Soil Fertility Workshops Schedule

Dates and locations are set for the 2020 Soil Fertility Workshops. The goal of our workshops is simple: we provide a general overview of fundamental agronomic principles and current university research so our attendees are better able to make nutrient management decisions for their customers or for their own operations. Today’s producers are inundated with information regarding crop inputs and practices. By applying the fundamental principles of agronomy to these inputs and practices, a consultant, agricultural retailer, or producer can evaluate and decide which of those are most applicable for achieving both the short-term and long-term goals of a specific operation.

The workshops are developed and presented by A&L Great Lakes Laboratories’ Agronomy Staff comprised of Certified Crop Advisers, Certified Professional Agronomists, and Certified Professional Soil Scientists whom have a wide range of experience in the agricultural industry.

We will be presenting eight workshops in January and February in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. For a complete list of dates and locations,  please visit our website.
August 30, 2019

Fall Management of Alfalfa

Fall is a critical time of year to manage alfalfa to ensure maximum productivity and stand longevity. Unlike annual crops such as corn and soybean, fall is when the alfalfa plant begins to store additional sugar, protein, and nutrient reserves in the crown and root system, which will provide protection from the cold winter weather and facilitate vigorous growth next spring. In a year such as this one, where hot and dry weather this summer was especially stressful to the plant, it is crucial to allow the alfalfa crop to prepare for the cold months ahead.

One of the most important management practices involves timely harvest. Final cuttings should be made early enough in the fall to allow the crop to regrow adequately and replenish necessary reserves before a killing frost, and should generally be completed by early to mid-September, depending on your location and local climate. More guidance on the exact timing can be obtained from state Extension publications or your local Extension agent. This is also a good time of year to assess the overall health and quality of an alfalfa crop, including evaluating stand density and root and crown health, allowing you to address any problems before they become serious.

Also critical for maintaining a successful alfalfa stand is managing the fertility of the crop. Fall is a good time of year to make fertilizer and lime applications. Low levels of nutrients, particularly potassium (K), can also lead to reduced stand health and vigor. In addition to the other essential functions of K in the plant, K plays an important role in the plants’ ability to resist subfreezing temperatures, and low levels of K in the plant can lead to increased winterkill if conditions are favorable. In addition, maintaining a proper pH with liming is critical for a number of reasons, including maximizing the availability of other nutrients and ensuring successful nitrogen fixation. Since lime requires adequate soil moisture and time in order to affect soil pH, making lime applications in the fall allows the liming material time to react and can have a greater effect on next year’s crop.

Careful management of your alfalfa crop this fall can mean a stronger, more vigorous crop next year. Therefore, taking some time to care for your alfalfa crop today can mean better results tomorrow and beyond.

August 30, 2019

Accessing Soil Sampling History Reports

As harvest progresses, some of you may have questions about when a field was last sampled, and whether it is due to be resampled.  Many of our customers use their Soil Sampling History Reports to identify which customer fields need to be resampled. These reports are available on our eDocs online document and data management system.


Following is a brief overview of how to access your Soil Sampling History Reports and Soil Test Data Summaries:


  1. Log in to eDocs at  Please contact us if you have forgotten your password.


  1. Change your Query Settings to match the following example:




  1. The Query Results will then show your available summary reports:













  1. Click the + in the row containing the summary report you wish to view or download:







  1. Click PDF (underlined) to view or download.


The Soil Sampling History Report helps identify or confirm which fields need to be resampled. Future summary reports will be posted to eDocs on an annual basis.  We hope that these tools will be useful to you and make your sampling efforts more efficient.


August 06, 2019

How Might the 2019 Growing Season Impact Soil Test Results

Every growing season has factors that can potently influence soil fertility results, however 2019 will have a greater potential to influence you soil test results than most. The key to success will be field notes about crop growth, yield, and management of the field as part of a total fertility management plan. View full article →

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