Your Questions: 360 SOILSCAN

Efficient nitrogen management is critical, both for yields and for your bottom line. As we monitor input costs – and regulations – we must know, not guess, how much nitrogen is in our fields.

360 SOILSCAN is a portable soil lab system that provides you with zone-specific soil nitrate analysis in about five minutes, allowing you to make more accurate and timely nutrient management decisions. So, corn never has a bad day and each pound of nitrogen you invest is money well spent.

In this Q&A, Josh Messer answers your questions and shares more information on 360 SOILSCAN.

Q: How does 360 SOILSCAN work?

A: 360 SOILSCAN tests soil nitrate levels in about five minutes. First, take a soil sample from your field. Then, place two scoops of soil into a standard Dixie cup and place in the mixing station. Mix the soil with distilled water to create a soil slurry. A sensor is then put into the slurry and the level of nitrate ions are measured.

Q: 360 SOILSCAN measures N PPM. How do you convert it to lb. per acre?

A: The rule of thumb is to multiple ppm by 2 for every 6 inches. So, if you have a 30 ppm reading from a 6″ sample, you’d have 60 lb./acre. If you have a 30 ppm reading from a 12″ sample, you’ have 120 lb./acre. It is important to note that this equation to convert ppm to lb./acre is an approximate since it is based on soil density, which is different for every field.

Q: Tell me more about the 360 SOILSCAN app.

A: The 360 SOILSCAN app is new for the 2015 growing season. With recent 360 SOILSCAN product upgrades, your 360 SOILSCAN unit can now link to your iPad, which walks you through the soil test process, and logs your soil sample test history. Also, the app allows you to more easily transfer soil data to your management zones with an easy GPS button to track the exact location of each soil sample. You can download the app here.

Q: How long until 360 SOILSCAN can be used as a certified nitrate/soil test for government CSP programs?

A: That’s a good question. We recently participated in our first round of soil testing in the Agricultural Laboratory Proficiency (ALP) Program. We were very pleased with the results that demonstrated that 360 SOILSCAN meets the standard set by ALP. The next step is to try to use this information for certification. This is a bit tricky as we’re breaking new ground with this technology and there isn’t a certification path for in-field testing. Current certification requirements are based off traditional lab settings only. Essentially, we’re blazing a new trail and are working with the certifying organizations to develop new standards, but do not have a timeline.

Q: If we use anhydrous, how useful is the nitrate test without testing for ammonium?

A: The vast majority of ammonium will convert to nitrate nitrogen before it is taken up by the crop. This conversion takes place within approximately four weeks. We recommend you run your soil tests right before any fertilizer application to get the best measurement of what you need to apply. As long as this occurs four weeks after your last application of anhydrous, you are getting a good measurement of the amount of nitrogen that is available to your crop. As an example, if you apply anhydrous before planting and then come back for a sidedress application four weeks or more later, using 360 SOILSCAN will give you a complete picture of the nitrogen available to your crop, since the ammonium will have converted fully to nitrate nitrogen and either been taken up by the crop, washed out by rains or still be available in your soil.

Q: Are there any plans to incorporate additional sensors in the future?

A: Currently, the machine measures for nitrate nitrogen. We’ve planned for the future and manufactured the machine so you can add up to three additional sensors. It’s a simple plug-and-play feature. You insert the new sensor and the software recognizes which sensor you’ve added and reconfigures. So, you’ll be able to test up to four sensors in this one cup and have the results in approximately five minutes. We are currently field-testing the K and pH sensors.

To learn more about 360 SOILSCAN, visit our website.