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Split Soil Samples

There’s a new kid on the block – two, in fact – for automated soil sampling. Both have the ability to sample through frozen ground.

It marks the first significant change in more than a decade, says Joshua Grimm, Precision Technologies manager, Bancroft, Iowa. 

Wintex

The Wintex 1000, an automated electric-over-hydraulic sampler manufactured in Denmark, has dominated the industry since it was introduced in 2003 by Precision Technologies. It revolutionized topsoil sampling on the Great Plains and in western Canada. 

The fast-acting Wintex 1000 has a capacity for about 450 probes per hour in topsoil. It dumps soil samples automatically into a holding box. The driver/operator puts a composite sample from 10 to 20 probes into soil lab bags while remaining in the driver’s seat.

The new samplers – the Wintex 1000S and the Wintex 2000 – address two limits of the 1000.

The Wintex 1000S will continue to serve the same topsoil market, but it has the ability to collect samples through frozen topsoil. It also will penetrate 1 foot compared with 8 inches for the Wintex 1000. 

“The Wintex 2000 is a 2-foot sampler and will also go through frozen ground,” Grimm says. “The whole platform sits on the ground before the sample is taken, so consistency is very high.”

He says it doesn’t matter how hard the ground is. “It has a depth sensor and goes down the exact same distance every time,” explains Grimm.

Hydraulics hammer the probe down 24 inches, pull out the core, and split it between topsoil and subsoil. 

“It takes 12 seconds in average field conditions to go down, split the core coming up, and be ready to move to the next point,” he explains. “Because it sits on the ground, it won’t lift up a four-wheeler or a side-by-side UTV.” 

The 24-inch split sample is definitely needed. “State environment departments in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas require nitrate samples from 2 feet, and they want top 6-inch samples split out for just regular fertility,” notes Grimm. 

Agvise

AGVISE Laboratories sees about 350,000 soil samples a year from the Dakotas, northwest Minnesota, eastern Montana, and the Canadian Prairies.  

For the combined labs at Northwood, North Dakota, and Benson, Minnesota, the percentage of samples with both topsoil and subsoil is approximately 60%.

The company has been making and selling hydraulic sampling systems for 20 to 30 years, says Richard Jenny, AGVISE senior agronomist at Benson. 

“In our market, there are two major suppliers: our company and Dakota Fluid Power,” he notes.

Jenny had the opportunity to inspect the Wintex 2000 in late 2014.

“The Wintex 2000 will automate the market,” he says. “It’s actually a very nice system. It will speed up core collection. It will automatically separate the topsoil into one bucket and separate the subsoil into the other bucket. Instead of a one- or two-minute core with our hydraulic system, the Wintex will do it in 12 to 14 seconds.”

He points to two other big differences between the AGVISE system and Wintex – cold weather and pricing – that some may see as disadvantages.

“Our hydraulic sampling systems usually are inside the pickup on the passenger side. The Wintex 2000 goes on an ATV, a four-wheeler, or a utility pickup, so you might get cold if you’re sampling in October or November. We have guys sampling in December in South Dakota,” Jenny says.

“The other thing will be sticker shock,” he predicts. 

The AGVISE system sells for $3,000. The Wintex 1000 is $8,000; the 1000S is $14,500; and the 2000 is priced at $18,500.

In general, soil sampling has been increasing along with precision farming on the Great Plains. However, Jenny suggests easier access to subsoil sampling is likely to spur more change. 

“Sampling has increased dramatically in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana,” he notes. “This will be a time-saver if you’re doing sampling. If you need to, you can go longer in the season on frozen ground. It could possibly lend itself to more intensive precision sampling for grids or management zones.” 

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