University of Vermont's Agricultural and Environmental Testing Lab is offering free soil testing to commercial Vermont farms with flooded fields. The regular soil test, plus a heavy metals test will be at no charge until October 15. The offer is for soil samples from flooded fields only, says Joel Tilley, director of the lab.
Upon request, the turn-around time on tests for both routine soil fertility and heavy metals will be expedited, with results available in a matter of days. They offer heavy metals screening as an add-on to the routine fertility test as well as a heavy metals test similar to what an environmental lab would run.
"Choose the latter if your only concern is possible metal contamination," suggests Tilley. "The heavy metal screening that accompanies the fertility test will inform you as whether or not a metals problem exists. The environmental test will give more precise concentrations.
Sample kits are available for each test from UVM Extension offices. Kits include a mailer, sample bag, and information form. You may also download a form and mail the sample in your own clean plastic bag (about 1/2 cup for soils)
Please note on the soil questionnaire submitted with the sample that the soil is from a flooded field. The form and more details are available at pss.uvm.edu/ag_testing or call 802-656-3030.
For more UVM links to flood related sites, click on pss.uvm.edu/vtcrops/.
Heavy metal concerns
Contamination from industrial activities or byproducts can increase the natural levels of heavy metals in soil, creating a health hazard to people, livestock and plants. Fertilizers and other soil amendments also add small amounts of heavy metals to the soil. They can build up over time with repeated applications.
The actual toxicity of a heavy metal will be affected by soil texture, organic matter, and pH. The health effects of exposure to heavy metals depend on the amount and duration of exposure, i.e. the volume of contaminated soil or food consumed over time.
It isn't clear exactly what levels of heavy metals in soil are safe or unsafe. But the UVM analysis will give an idea of whether more testing is warranted.