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SEC Soil Sampling Services

September 16, 2020

Soil sampling truckSustainable Environmental Consultants (SEC) agricultural compliance and engineering division conducts soil sampling to meet a variety of testing protocols, including local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) guidelines. The sampling process begins by mapping the designated fields. SEC traditionally divides fields into approximately 16-acre segments in either a grid or zone formation. Grid sampling is when the field is divided into equal sized quadrants, generally between 2.5 acres and 20 acres and a sample is taken from each quadrant. Zone sampling is when the field is divided into areas (not necessarily in a grid pattern) usually determined by the soil type boundaries. Once the sampling formation is determined, the GPS coordinates of the sampling locations are determined, which allows us to pull future samples from the same general locations. Monitoring the same location over time provides consistency. It also allows us to see how soil nutrients change after application of natural or chemical fertilizers and what nutrients are used and removed by the various crops. Each soil sampling result is added to a database where we review and analyze the soil nutrient trends, providing feedback to the producer so they can properly assess the amount of fertilizer needed.

Soil sampling toolSEC uses a 2400 In-Cab Soil Sampler to collect soil samples. The sampler is installed in a dedicated pickup truck. Mounted directly to the truck’s frame through the floor in the cab, the sampler is powered by the vehicle’s electric system. The electric over hydraulic soil sampler uses the electricity from the pickup to power an electric motor, which in turn powers the hydraulic pump that runs the probe cylinder. The protocol for soil sampling consists pulling two samples at each GPS location, a surface sample (0” – 6”) and a profile sample (6” – 24”). Each sample can consist of as many as 10 cores. Surface and profile samples are then taken from each zone or grid and combined into two separate composite samples.

Other soil sampling techniques are much more labor and time intensive. Using manual augers and probes are effective but have some obvious drawbacks. Each individual sample requires the operator to get out of the vehicle and manually collect a soil sample. Depending on soil type and compaction, it can take as much as 15 minutes to collect a single composite sample.

The in-cab probe can pull multiple cores from each designated sampling location, giving a better representation of what the nutrient levels are in the field in a fraction of the time. Instead of pulling one sample at each location, we may pull as many as 10. A single core only takes 20-30 seconds per individual sample with the in-cab sampler. Soil type or compaction is not an issue with the in-cab sampler. The probe has had no trouble pulling samples from any field, regardless of if it has been heavily tilled and is very soft or has been compacted and is very dense. To remove the sample from the in-cab unit, the operator must disconnect the probe from the quick connect at the base of the cylinder, dump it out of the probe, drive to the next location, and reattach the probe to the cylinder to collect the next sample. The 2400 In-Cab Soil Sampler allows SEC to do a more consistent, efficient job when pulling soil samples. It also allows SEC to tailor a soil sampling plan that fits with the producer’s needs, improve their management, and making their operation both economically and environmentally sustainable.

About Sustainable Environmental Consultants

Established in 2008, Sustainable Environmental Consultants is part of the Wright Service Corp. employee-owned family of companies. Since its inception, SEC has endeavored to be a leader in providing innovative solutions to better the planet through sustainability risk management, third-party data reporting and verification, and agricultural compliance and engineering. We provide a full range of environmental services needed by food companies and their agriculture supply systems. To learn more, visit