Sampling and Shipping Instructions
Thanks for booking an assessment with Web of Life Regenerative Land Care! This brief guide will walk you through the soil or compost sampling process. It also contains details about shipping your samples if you’re outside the Ithaca, NY area. If you have any questions after reading this guide, please feel free to email email@example.com for support.
General sample collection and handling guidelines:
- Collect samples only when you can ship them immediately, the same day.
- Shipping should have a target delivery timeframe of 1-2 days maximum.
- Wash your hands well before handling the sample material, and between handling different samples.
- Keep the samples out of direct sunlight or extreme heat or cold, which could kill organisms we want to measure. Aim to keep samples at room temperature or slightly cooler.
- If you ship during hot weather, it’s probablly a good idea to add a cooler pack to your box, with padding so it’s not in direct contact with the samples.
- Tools needed for sampling:
- one clean ziploc plastic bag (or container with securable top) per sample,
- a permanent marker,
- a handheld soil core collector (such as a handheld apple corer about 3” long by 1” diameter). If no soil corer is available, use a spoon to approximate this 3” deep by 1” diameter size soil core as well as you can.
- If you use a plastic bag, close some air in with the sample (puff it up as much as you can) to keep the aerobic soil organisms happy while being shipped. If it’s a rigid container, make certain it’s large enough to be no more than half filled with your sample.
- Put the samples in a box or padded bag in such a way that they won’t get compacted along the way.
Soil or compost sample collection details
1. Identify your sampling areas
There may be multiple samples to take if there are several different conditions of interest on your land. For example, if some of your crop is healthy and some diseased, those would be two separate sampling areas. Another example is if you have two or more compost piles, each one would be its own individual sample. And if conditions within a pile are not homogenous, you can separate these different areas of one pile into two different samples.
Complete the following steps 2-5 for each separate soil sampling area, or compost pile.
2. Collect the samples
Take 1 tsp (approx 4 grams or 4 ml) from a minimum of 5 different areas from a small compost pile or 20 different areas from a large windrow and combine. Take the teaspoons from various locations and depths within the pile and subsequently combine them into a single bag or container. Doing this helps ensure the sample is representative of the entire pile (or area of interest in the pile).
Before taking a soil core, remove any debris or organic matter from the soil surface.
Take at least three 3” deep soil cores (but as many as 5-10 from large areas) from locations within your identified sampling area. Consider the following when selecting sample locations:
- If you’re interested in the soil of a particular plant or crop, take soil cores from the root zone of that plant. If the plants are small, just sample the soil close to them; if they’re large enough, sample midway between the stem and the outer edge of the leaves. You can select plants at random, or choose individuals of particular interest or concern (ones that aren’t doing well, for example).
- If you’re sampling around trees, take samples from midway between the dripline (the edge of the canopy) and the trunk, at the appropriate root zone depth, if you know it. If the root zone is located in the first 3-4” of soil, start the sample from the top of the soil (insert corer into soil, take soil from the top 1-3”) If the root zone is deeper, insert the corer to the appropriate level and take 3” at that level (for example, if the root zone starts at 4” deep, take a soil core from the 4-7” depth).
- If testing for the general state of soil microbial health in an area, but with no particular plant of interest in mind, select 5-10 random locations across the area. If there are crop plants there, it’s still a good idea to sample from the root zone of a random group of those plants, as described above.
3. Combine them..
Combine soil cores or compost teaspoons taken from each sampling area into one bag per area, creating a composite sample for each.
4. Label them..
Once a sample is thus collected, please write the following information on the outside of the sample bag (do not place a note inside the sample container as this may affect results):
- Sample type: compost, soil, or other agricultural amendment
- An identifier of the sample location and type of sampling area (e.g., “Organic field #3, north cabbage patch)
- The date and time the sample was taken
5. Mail them..
Complete and enclose the “Microbiology Assessment Submission Form” you can find and download here. Send the sample(s) to be delivered in 1-2 business days to our Ithaca, NY address below. Choose “signature not required” delivery.
Web of Life Regenerative Land Care
572 Nelson Road
6. Email us the tracking number..
When you’ve sent the samples on their way, please email the package tracking number to firstname.lastname@example.org. This will be the heads-up we need to pick up your package as soon as it gets here.
7. And receive your results by email in a week or less!
Results are typically emailed to you in *.pdf document format, but if another format (e.g. *.csv spreadsheet) is preferable, please let us know. Along with your results, we include recommendations for optimal levels of each soil food web organism, based on crop type or plant/tree species.