Wallaces Farmer

Solum's new soil testing laboratory located in Ames has received state certification to test soil for customers in Iowa and Minnesota.

September 21, 2012

5 Min Read

Solum, Inc., a leader in advanced field measurements for commercial agriculture, announces that is has received state soil laboratory certification for both Iowa and Minnesota for its new facility in Ames, Iowa.

State-level laboratory certification is an important component of soil testing quality assurance for U.S. agriculture. To be granted certification, participating laboratories are required to measure nutrients from a set of standardized test soils and report results back to the testing programs. These results form the basis of state-level certification in many states.


"Quality is a cornerstone of our lab process, and we are pleased to share this news with our Iowa and Minnesota customers" says Mike Preiner, Solum co-founder and president. "We look forward to continuing to expand our state-level certifications as demand for field-moist soil analysis continues to increase."

Company has expanded in the Midwest by opening new soil analysis facility

Earlier this year, Solum expanded in the Midwest by opening a new, state-of–the-art soil analysis facility in Ames, Iowa. At this facility Solum provides field-moist soil sample analysis for all soil nutrients for growers, consulting agronomists and agricultural service providers. The company's 12,500-square-foot facility includes a full soil preparation and analysis lab as well as business offices.

"We are very pleased with the progress at the new facility" adds Preiner. "Transferring our process and achieving these state-level certifications is a direct reflection of our emphasis on quality." The Solum Ames facility began receiving commercial samples during the second week of September for the fall 2012 season.

What is field-moist soil testing? Why the increased interest in it?

Field-moist soil testing is a technique first perfected many years ago and it is once again generating interest within precision agriculture industry due to its reported higher level of reliability when measuring soil nutrients.

Soil testing estimates a section of a field's probable nutrient level and its likely response to fertilization. Basically, soil tests are used to determine how much of each nutrient is needed to optimize yield response, although soil tests cannot predict actual yield levels due to the many other factors that affect yield.

The time of sampling in a field or when the samples are handled at the laboratory may partially account for the high variability in soil test results for potassium. Iowa State University research in the 1960s and 1970s demonstrated soil K extracted from field-moist samples was better correlated with crop K uptake than K extracted from air or oven-dried samples.

Dry-soil test systems aren't good predictors and have a lot of variability

However, dry soil testing remains the more widely used method today, largely because the practicality of large-scale field-moist soil preparation initially brought with it more questions than answers, a predicament that Solum's system promises to solve. "The dry test has no good predictive capacity along with a lot of variability," says Antonio Mallarino, an Iowa State University agronomy professor and soil scientist. "Maybe it's time to bring back the field-moist test."

With most dry-test systems, a farmer or fertilizer dealer has to first homogenize the soil sample by grinding it before allowing it to dry for 12 to 24 hours prior to testing. With the field-moist system, users either mail the sample to the company's facility in Ames or test the sample immediately with one of Solum's field-usable "No Wait Nitrate Field Kits" which provide lab-quality soil nitrate results in minutes. "The key is the level of automation we've been able to develop to handle field-moist samples in a consistent way for homogenization," says Preiner. "That also enables soil-N testing in real-time."

Farmers and dealers may be slow to switch to field moist, but there are benefits to doing so, says Preiner. He says field moist is a better predictor of a crop's potassium needs, and also, moist measurements are more consistent and allow users to better identify long-term trends in a field. Mallarino adds, "When you dry and grind a soil sample, it increases the potassium level that you measure. But the really important thing to consider is that it does it in a way that makes it more difficult to predict crop response."

Study comparing field-moist and traditional soil preparation methods provides insight

In 2011, Solum began a study comparing field moist and traditional soil preparation techniques across multiple cropping environments. The company surveyed 20 locations with multiple retailers across several regions in fields with varied fertility histories, and found the variability introduced by drying and grinding does indeed make the field-moist test the better option. "There's a lot of variability that's introduced from drying and grinding of soil samples and it varies tremendously from field to field," says Prenier.

Early results from this test are encouraging, as one part of the program users really like is the data and reporting software that's included. It provides users with mobile access and is compatible with precision ag systems. Users get their own data that Solum allows. "This system is online and transparent, and can be shared with groups or subgroups," says Prenier. "We set this up to be easy to use and sharable."

About Solum: Solum is an agricultural technology company. Solum develops advanced measurement systems and software solutions that increase profitability by providing the information required to farm every acre optimally. The company's technology platform and information systems support better agricultural decision making worldwide. For more information, visit www.solumtech.com

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