With another harvest wrapping up, farmers will be looking to get every bit of information they can to make decisions for next year, which includes soil testing.

Soil testing involves taking samples from fields and running tests to see what kind of nutrients are inside the soil.

The most common type of testing is simply taking a scoop of dirt and testing it.

But Warren Ward, an Agronomist with the Canola Council of Canada, says there are many other methods.

"There's some benchmark type sampling where you go to similar areas in a field and collect samples that way or if you're doing a more detailed sample, you can get into more of a grid type pattern in the field just to try and understand that variability a little bit better and you'll see some of these are practices that you might start looking at if you were if you were getting involved in variable rate fertilizer application."

Ward says that determining what type of test you'd want to do comes down to how much information a farmer needs on their field.

Timing is also a key factor, with some seasons giving the best indicator.

"Really what you're trying to achieve with cell testing is knowing what nutrients are going to be available to the crop when it's growing. So from that standpoint, the spring before seeding is kind of the most accurate time to be cell sampling because that's what's going to be available once the crop is growing."

"Unfortunately, that doesn't leave a lot of time for planning and sourcing your fertilizer needs and whatnot," said Ward, "So going from there to fall soil testing does give you a little bit better opportunity to have a look at those soil test results over the winter and plan what you're going to do for fertilizer rate come spring." 

For those looking to have a soil test, there are programs that help with the cost of that.

"We do have the canola 4R advantage program and that's through the on-farm climate action funding and one of the BMPs that we have included there is for soil testing so to be eligible for that it has to be a new practice on the farm. So whether you haven't soil tested in the past or if you have soil tested but haven't had a 4R nutrient management plan by sitting down with a designated agronomist and putting a nutrient plan in place. Then your soil testing would be eligible through our program."

That eligibility lasts until November 30th, with more information available at canolacouncil.org/4r-advantage.