New free soil sampling program coming to life for Indiana farmers

INDIANA — The Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) and partners throughout the state have worked with the Gulf Hypoxia Program (GHP) to develop a no-cost program with a focus on increasing the knowledge and use of soil sampling as a nutrient management practice to benefit farm operations.

The program, titled Indiana’s Mississippi River Basin Soil Sampling Program, is open now for applicants.

Lt. Gov. Crouch

“Hoosier farmers care deeply about the land and work hard each year to keep their soil healthy,” said Lt. Gov. Crouch, Indiana’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. “This free program is a great way for farmers to test their soil and ensure the proper nutrients are being utilized on their fields.”

ISDA promotes the importance of nutrient management and the principle of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework. The 4R framework incorporates using the “Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, and Right Place” to achieve cropping system goals. The new program focuses on soil sampling and testing because it is a key component, and the first step, in developing a plan for nutrient management.

Soil sampling provides an assessment of the soil’s fertility which can be used for making fertilizer application recommendations, assessing available nutrients over time, increasing farmer profitability, and enhancing environmental protection by reducing the risk of nutrient loss. This project was developed to help further Indiana’s State Nutrient Reduction Strategy efforts.

ISDA Director Don Lamb

“This free program for farmers will help them assess their land so they can continue to produce as much food as possible with fewer fertilizer inputs. As a farmer myself, I know how critical that is,” said Don Lamb, ISDA director. “This program would not be possible without a few incredible partners whose top priority is assisting Hoosier farmers and keeping Hoosier land in great shape.”

The map of the eligible area for this program.

This program includes row crop fields, pastures, and specialty crops located within Indiana’s portion of the Mississippi River Basin. Participating landowners will be prioritized by fields that have never been soil sampled and fields that haven’t been sampled regularly (i.e., within the last 3-4 years). Further prioritization may be implemented based on interest in the program. This program excludes hobby gardens and private lawns. Interested farmers can sign up online at ISDA’s website or by reaching out to

Sign-ups are now open and ISDA is accepting sign-ups until April 17, 2024.

Paul Hodgen, president of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, is excited to bring this program to fruition. Hodgen is well versed in soil fertility with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy, a master’s degree in soil science, and a doctorate degree in agronomy and soil fertility. 

“Regular soil sampling and testing is a critical part of a nutrient management plan to economically produce a crop,” Hodgen said. “We look forward to working with ISDA and other partners to help Hoosier farmers continue to make informed decisions on nutrient management. Soil testing is a keystone to sustainably producing a crop. This effort will further our goals for nutrient management stewardship across Indiana. This will help us make smarter decisions about where to apply nutrients and spread that data across more acres. This program will be a great way to increase the number of farmers who better understand their soils, and it will allow them to make improved management decisions based on good data.”

This program was made possible thanks to ISDA, Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Indiana Agriculture Nutrient Alliance (IANA), Indiana Conservation Partnership (ICP) members, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, farmers, and Certified Crop Advisors.