A guidance document for agronomic best practice soil sampling in Australia

Cameron Gourley1,2, David Weaver 3 and Jeff Kraak4

1 Agriculture Research Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Ellinbank, VIC 3821;
2 School of Chemistry, Monash University, Clayton, VIC 3800;
3 Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, 444 Albany Hwy, Albany WA 6330;
4 Fertilizer Australia, 40 Macquarie Street, Barton ACT, 2600.


Fertiliser recommendations for agriculture should be supported by soil analysis and interpretation, the basis of which is underpinned by collected field samples which accurately represent the plant root environment, and calibration experiments. Field variability of soil characteristics can exist horizontally and vertically, with induced soil nutrient variations caused by animal management, tillage, drainage, crop removal and fertiliser and ameliorant inputs. Vertical variation can be associated with natural or induced soil horizon differences, nutrient mobility, waterlogging, mechanical disruption and nutrient placement. A third dimension of variation is that of temporal change; between years, between seasons or even more rapidly from applied fertiliser or animal manure. Agricultural practices such as minimal tillage, deep soil amendment, row cropping, raised beds, precision fertiliser and ameliorant placement, and variable rate applications, can all impact on soil conditions and nutrient availability within the root zone. Nutrient additions may involve organic, liquid and granular forms. Technological advances now allow for immediate and easy access to site-specific aerial and satellite imagery, capture of geo-coordinates, real-time access and upload of field and meta-data. Sampling equipment continues to advance with the availability of power-driven sampling tools, reducing labour requirements so more samples can be taken and enabling deeper soil profile sampling. The purpose of this paper is to introduce the new Fertcare® soil sampling guidance document which describes ‘fit for purpose’ soil sampling approaches with the aim of improving consistency and accuracy of on-farm in soil sampling.


The Australian Society of Agronomy is the professional body for agronomists in Australia. It has approximately 500 active members drawn from government, universities, research organisations and the private sector.

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David Marland Photography david_marland@hotmail.com Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University

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