Information Management to Maximize Your Yields

Maximize the Benefits of Grid Sampling

20131009_maxyield_110 (681x1024)There’s a good reason why grid sampling has been called one of the most important management practices for modern crop production. Accurate grid soil sampling is the first step to getting the most economic return on your precision farming investment.

“I’ve soil sampled ever since I started farming in the late 1990s and began grid sampling shortly after that,” said Eric Marchand, a SciMax Solutions® client who farms near Britt. “It helps me put the right nutrients in the right place.”

It’s important to update grid samples every four years for best results. Thanks to advances in technology, today’s grid sampling is much more sophisticated and can provide more useful results than the soil tests of yesteryear. All grid sampling services aren’t created equal, however. That’s why MaxYield Cooperative and SciMax Solutions took the process in-house in 2013.

“Quality is the key with soil sampling,” said Rachel Amundson, a SciMax Solutions specialist. “While SciMax partnered with other soil sampling companies in the past, we now run all our samples at a private lab to provide the highest quality service and data.”

MaxYield and SciMax have been working with Dr. Rick Vanden Heuvel of VH Consulting Inc., to provide this attention to detail since 2005. “Dr. Vanden Heuvel made everything easy to understand,” said Marchand, who was one of 20 growers who participated. “I was surprised by how much care he takes from start to finish to provide the best results possible.”

Put your soil to the test
The grid sampling process starts when trained SciMax professionals pull soil samples in the spring and fall using the latest technology. Samples are pulled every 2.5 acres using GPS technology, although the SciMax Solutions team is also testing 1.6-acre grids.

“We’re looking at this to address variability and help SciMax clients manage nutrients better,” said Rodney Legleiter, a SciMax Solutions specialist.

All of the samples are pulled according to SciMax Nitrogen protocols so nutrient recommendations can be made from the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test (ISNT). This soil-based system promotes sustainable agriculture, offers growers increased profit potential, and enhances environmental stewardship.

The samples are then sent to Vanden Heuvel’s certified lab, where they are thoroughly analyzed. This can be a time-consuming, detailed process, Legleiter noted. Because heavy clay soils are common throughout MaxYield’s trade territory, the soil samples need to be dried properly for best testing results. Since heat drying samples with heavy clay content can tie up nutrients and lead to false readings of fertility levels, Vanden Heuvel air dries the samples.

SciMax tour participants viewed the various equipment and data entry systems Vanden Heuvel uses to provide the most accurate results possible. “This isn’t a huge lab that’s focused on volume,” Marchand said. “It’s clear that careful research and quality are very important to Dr. Vanden Heuvel.”

Feeding your high-yielding crops of the future
Once the grid sampling results are in, the SciMax team compiles maps for clients’ fields. These are the start of a customized fertilizer recommendation plan tailored to zones throughout each field.

“Increasing yields starts when you know how much variability is in your fields,” Amundson said. “Understanding your soil conditions will help you better manage nutrients so you can apply the right amount where they are needed and ensure that they work together most effectively.”

Amundson is pleased that the number of grid-sampled acres continues to grow through SciMax Solutions. She encourages more growers to take advantage of this opportunity. “Grid sampling is another time we’re out in your field, learning more about your acres, soil types, and fertility levels. Also, we hold the soil samples for one year, which gives you extra time to decide if you
want to utilize SciMax Nitrogen®.”

Grid sampling is one of the most cost-effective nutrient management solutions available.
It’s also a key to better stewardship of Iowa’s natural resources. “It’s a win-win, because it helps you make the most of your input dollars and yield potential while protecting water quality,” said Peter Bixel, SciMax Solutions’ team leader.

SciMax Solutions plans to host another trip to Wisconsin in the months ahead so more clients have the opportunity to see the level of expertise that goes into the grid sampling results. “Dr. Vanden Heuvel has studied nitrogen management throughout his career, and his expertise is helping us provide more sound agronomic results,” Amundson said.

Marchand is even more convinced about the value of grid sampling after visiting Vanden Heuvel’s lab. “Better fertilizer management makes sense for so many reasons, especially as margins get tighter. It’s good to know that SciMax and Dr. Vanden Heuvel put in the extra effort to make sure their clients receive the best solutions available.”

For more information on grid sampling or SciMax Solutions, log on to

Improving water quality with variable rate N applications in corn

R.M. Vanden Heuvel, Ph.D., CPSS
VH Consulting, Inc.

January, 2015

Over the past ten years, VH Consulting and Max Yield Cooperative (SciMax N) have been promoting variable rate N applications (VRT-N) for continuous corn and corn in rotation with soybean. Over 60,000 acres have been sampled for this program in northern Iowa. The goal of the program was to refine N recommendations and optimize N rates. A growing university database across the Corn Belt has clearly shown that producers have been over applying N for corn production. It is also very clear that N needs vary across individual fields, but VRT-N programs across the Corn Belt remain in their infancy. Recommendations for SciMax N have reduced N rates by an average of about 35-40 lbs/a thus far, compared to standard farmer practice. While unusual, some fields have seen average reductions of 100 lbs/a. With these improvements, questions are being asked as to the anticipated water quality improvements that should result from the program. Such water quality data from universities are not common as the measurements needed to be taken are very time consuming and expensive. This article hopes to provide some estimates water quality improvements with improved N application rates from data that does exist from our area.table 1

Recent water quality data from the University of Minnesota at Waseca, MN measured nitrate that moved out of the soil profile with various N rates under field conditions (Table 1). The soil was a
Webster clay loam, typical of the area and also of northern IA. Nitrogen application rates were from 0 to 180 lbs/a in 30 lb increments. Yields were determined and nitrate-N (measured with special instrumentation to extract samples of the soil solution) is given as the total amount measured for the growing season. The red colored value of 135 lbs/a was the calculated Economic Optimum N rate (EON), not an applied N rate.

The first important item to note is that when no N was applied, 28 lbs/a of nitrate-N was lost over the growing season. This is not unusual as mineralization occurs with tillage. It also points out that a corn crop is not 100% efficient at using N in the soil profile, even when no fertilizer is applied. Some losses are always going to occur.

As the N rate increases it can be seen that nitrate-N also increases, reaching 51 lbs/a at the 180 lbs N/a, the highest application rate. The EON was 135 lbs/a, which produced an estimated 189 bu/a of grain. Ideally, this would be what a farmer would optimally apply at this site. But how well does this rate do for the environment by minimizing nitrate leaching? At the EON, the nitrate-N rate would have been 41 lbs/a, a value that is only 13 lbs/a above that of the 0 N application rate. So, moving from 0 to 135 lbs/a of applied N only increased nitrate-N by 13 lbs/a (28 to 41 lbs/a, Table 1)! This is important to note as it illustrates that optimum N rates serve to minimize nitrate leaching in a high production environment. Over application above EON will only serve to increase the rate of leaching. This is shown in the last column of Table 1 as nitrate-N increased to 23 lbs N/a above the check, at the highest N rate of 180 lbs/a. Using an optimum rate of N (the EON, of 135 lbs/a) reduced nitrate-N leaching by over 40% (from 23 lbs/a to 13 lbs/a). This degree of reduction is significant!

A nitrogen program that zeros in on optimum N rates for your fields will minimize environmental contamination. It won’t eliminate leaching, but it will minimize it. Over application of N accelerates the loss of N, costing farmers money and unnecessarily degrading water resources. The 180 lb N/a rate in the university study can be viewed as a reasonably common rate used in our region in traditionally managed fields. SciMax N has reduced N rates to below this number. In many cases, well below this amount of N. If the leaching data in the study above is an indication of what is happening in northern IA, then VRT-N recommendations in SciMax N are having a very significant impact on reduced nitrate-N levels.

As we continue to improve our recommendation system, only more improvements for reduced nitrate loads will occur. Optimum yields are required for profitable farming, and fortunately the N rates required to achieve them (EON) will go a long way to improve water quality.

Grid Soil Sample – Precision Ag Internship

SciMax Soil SamplingPrecision Ag Experience Opportunities

The goal of your internship is to provide you real world experience of a SciMax Solutions Specialist your experience includes;

Grid Soil Sample Experience
o Perform grid soil sampling for SciMax Solutions with latest technology and equipment
o Learn the foundation of fertility recommendations
o Tour soil analysis lab

SciMax Solutions® Experience
o Learn basics of data collection
o Collect yield data
o Analysis of yield and fertility data
o Develop reports on data trends and information
o Work one-on-one with precision ag clients

Sales Experience
o Job shadow opportunities with SciMax Solutions Specialists, Seed Solutions Specialists, and Agronomy Specialists

o Interns are needed for FALL 2014. Interns can work the entire fall-term (August – December) or we can work with your schedule on selected weekdays and weekends September through early November.
o Interns are also needed in similar capacities for SPRING 2014. Interns can work the entire spring-term (January – May, and through the summer) or we can work with your schedule on selected weekdays and weekends September through early November.

To Launch Your Internship With Us…Contact:

Diane Streit
Human Resource Director
Phone: 515-887-7211 ext. 297


Put Your Soil to the Test: Get the Dirt on SciMax’s New Soil Sampling Service

SciMax Soil SamplingHow will you feed your high-yielding crops of the future? Accurate grid soil sampling is the first step to getting the most economic return on your precision farming investment.

All soil tests aren’t created equal, however. That’s why MaxYield Cooperative and SciMax Solutions are taking the process in-house.

“Quality is the key with soil sampling,” said Eric Goodman, a SciMax Solutions specialist who is in charge of soil sampling. “While SciMax has partnered with other companies in the past, we’ve started running all our samples at a private lab to provide the highest quality service and data.”

With this new system, you’ll benefit from more flexible scheduling and faster turnaround time. The real results are behind the scenes, however. With the heavy clay soils that are common throughout MaxYield’s trade territory, soil samples need to be dried properly for best results. Since heating the samples to dry them faster can give false readings, the samples need to be air dried.

MaxYield and SciMax are working with Dr. Rick Vanden Huevel of VH Consulting Inc., to provide this attention to detail. “Quality methods and careful research are very important to Dr. Vanden Huevel,” said Goodman, who noted that MaxYield has partnered with Vanden Huevel for six years on SciMax Nitrogen. “He has studied nitrogen management throughout his career, and his expertise will help us provide more sound agronomic results.”

Better nutrient placement equals better yields

MaxYield and SciMax are easing into the new soil sampling system this fall. Trained SciMax professionals will be pulling soil samples this fall and next spring using the latest technology.

“Spring soil sampling is a great option, because it gives us more time to work with clients to develop a fertilizer plan as we head into fall,” Goodman said. Spring soil sampling also saves you $1 per acre, compared to fall soil sampling, he added.

When you sign up for SciMax grid soil sampling, samples are pulled every 2.5 acres using the latest GPS technology. The samples are sent to Vanden Huevel’s certified lab, where they are thoroughly analyzed.

Once the results are in, SciMax compiles maps for your fields. This is the start of a customized fertilizer recommendation plan that shows you where you need fertilizer and how much you need.

“Increasing yields starts when you know how much variability is in your fields,” Goodman said. “Understanding your soil conditions will help ensure you apply the right amount of nutrients where they are needed.”

To fine-tune the process, SciMax sampled a number of fields on 1.6-acre grids this year to see if this offers even better results. “Our goal is to conduct more research and find more solutions that are customized for growers in this area,” Goodman said. “We’re excited about offering in-house soil sampling and look forward to helping our clients increase yields through information management. “

For more information on soil sampling or SciMax Solutions, log onto


Grid Soil Sample Part-Time Position Open

MaxYield Cooperative’s precision ag department, SciMax Solutions, is seeking part-time team members to perform grid soil sampling tasks this fall. Position will work directly with our SciMax Solutions team collecting soil samples.

Hours available during the week days/evenings plus hours available Saturday’s and Sunday’s.

For more information contact Eric Goodman, or 515-320-0404

Learn more about MaxYield at and

Why Grid Sample?


By Dr. R. M. Vanden Heuvel

Profit estimates for grid soil sampling using University fertilizer response curves indicate that it is a sound agronomic practice compared to “composite” soil sampling. Compositing individual samples taken across a field obscure or hide the “very low” and “low” testing areas of a field, where increased profits can be realized.

For instance, if a low test of 10 ppm P is mixed with high testing parts of a field, say 30 or 40 ppm, the resulting average would be high enough to result in a fertilizer recommendation at or near 0. This would not correct the low test area and yield in that area would be limited.

Iowa State University response data indicates that at 10 ppm P (Bray P1 test), about 9% of the yield is lost (see Figure 1 below). For a 200 bu/a potential yield, that’s 18 bu/a that will not be realized. This loss can be avoided if the low test areas are properly identified and managed correctly with the right amount of fertilizer.

The same principles apply to testing pH for lime and also K for correct potash applications.

So, grid sampling and a routine analysis gives you 3 chances (P, K, and pH) to improve your profitability!

To learn how you can get more from every acre, contact SciMax Solutions.



The Time is Right to Grid Sample

Peter BixelIt all starts with the soil, whether you’re growing grain or vegetables. Knowing what the soil is capable of is very important to reach your field’s yield potential and to make the best use of inputs.

Learn how to better place fertilizer and to better time fertilizer applications with information gleaned from our SciMax Grid Soil Sampling program. Grid sampling takes your soil sample data and your yield data to a higher level. We highly recommend 2.5 acre grids for our grid sampling protocol.

A great time to have your acres grid sampled is right after planting. Soil sample data gathered this spring could help you adjust the timing of your fertilizer applications during the growing season, plus it will leave you with one less thing to worry about while you’re in the combine next fall. After finding out what the soil test results are, you can start planning for the next crop and have it in place by September.

We’re able to use actual yield data for crop removal values, soil sample test values, and management zones for recommendations. We can also use Learning Blocks to measure the most economical return on your investment. A learning block is put within an area with a high or low rate of nutrients. We can also help you determine the correct amount of nitrogen for your field through our variable rate Nitrogen program which has its own trade secret.

The benefits of grid sampling far out-weigh the costs. In fact, when managed properly, grid sampling can make you money by increasing yield and identifying areas where you can push plant populations. Learn more about grid soil sampling by contacting experts at SciMax Solutions.



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