January 22, 2024
By Shannon Dill

Harvest for 2023 has come to a close and we are moving into bookkeeping, reporting, and training season. One of these winter activities will be reviewing and updating your nutrient management plan. A key component of a nutrient management plan is a soil test within the past three years. Soil tests provide an analysis of nutrients, pH, and other qualities of soil important for planning and crop productivity and are the foundation of a nutrient management plan. 

University of Maryland (UMD) Extension provides guiding documents related to proper soil testing and analysis. Soil samples provide information about a location’s fertility status, including pH, organic matter content, and availability of nutrients. Nutrient management recommendations are only as good as the soil test. Therefore, proper soil sampling techniques are essential to collect representative soil samples based on field management. Soil samples should be collected at least once every three years. Consider taking soil samples at the same time each year to reduce seasonal effects, do not take samples within a minimum of six weeks from a fertilizer or lime application, and do not take wet samples. 

Taking soil samples is best done with a soil probe. Probes are available at your county Extension office for use. A minimum of 15-20 cores should be taken within a sampling area. Cores can be transferred to a clean bucket, mixed up, and then approximately two cups of soil selected to submit to the lab. More information on soil testing can be found at: https://go.umd.edu/FS-1184

UMD Extension has a few updates about the Agricultural Nutrient Management Program (ANMP). Nutrient voucher trainings have been planned and are available throughout the state. If you apply nutrients on 10 or more acres and are not a certified operator, the State of Maryland requires a nutrient voucher every three years. For more information on training dates visit the website at https://go.umd.edu/ANMP-Meetings. Each county has an ANMP contact, and those requiring assistance in developing their nutrient management plan are encouraged to reach out. Soil tests and other plan requirements are necessary before a plan can be completed.

There are five Nutrient Management Advisor positions open across the state. Nutrient Management Advisors play a crucial role in helping Maryland farmers develop and implement nutrient management plans. These UMD Extension job openings are in Caroline, Montgomery, Wicomico/Worcester, and Washington Counties, and a Statewide position. To apply or learn more, please visit https://ejobs.umd.edu/postings/115994.