Field-Moist Soil Testing Makes A Comeback

A soil-testing technique first perfected decades ago, field-moist soil testing is once again generating a buzz within the precision ag industry due to its reported higher level of reliability when measuring soil nutrients.

Mountain View, CA-based Solum, Inc. is pioneering the technology via an automated, field-moist preparation system. This was the subject of a recent CropLife Media Group Webinar, which was presented by Mike Prenier, Solum’s co-founder and president, and Landon Morris, the company’s vice president of marketing and business development, along with Iowa State University professor Dr. Antonio Mallarino.

Dry Vs. Moist

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

According to Solum, the time of sampling in the field or during sample handling at the laboratory may partially account for high variability of STK (soil test K) results. 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.

However, dry soil testing remains the more widely used technique, mostly because the practicality of large-scale field-moist soil preparation initially brought with it more questions than answers, a predicament that Solum’s system pledges to alleviate.

“The dry test has no good predictive capacity along with a lot of variability,” says Mallarino. “So we thought ‘maybe it’s time to bring back the field-moist test.’”

Advantages Of Automation

A hallmark of the Solum system is the level of automation that users enjoy.

Whereas with most conventional dry-testing systems, a grower or retailer must first homogenize the sample by grinding it before allowing it to dry for 12 to 24 hours prior to testing, with the field-moist system, users either simply mail the sample in to the company’s Ames, IA, facility (which will begin accepting samples this fall) or test the sample immediately with one of Solum’s field-deployable No Wait Nitrate Field Labs, which delivers lab-quality soil nitrate results in minutes.

“The key is the level of automation that we’ve been able to scale to handle field-moist samples in a consistent framework for homogenization,” Preiner says. “That also enables soil-N testing in real-time.”

Field-Moist Implications

As creatures of habit, growers and retailers alike may be slow to make the switch to field moist, but the benefits of making such a move are tangible.

According to Solum, those benefits are two-fold: 1) Measuring field moist is a better predictor of a crop’s potassium needs, and 2) Moist measurements are more consistent with time and allow users to better identify long-term trends in a field. 

“When you dry and grind a sample, that increases the potassium level that you measure,” Mallarino says. “But the really important thing to consider is that it does it in a way that makes it more difficult to predict crop response.”

In 2011, Solum launched a comparative analysis of field moist and traditional soil preparation techniques across multiple cropping environments. The company surveyed 20 locations with multiple retailers across multiple regions with varied fertility histories, and found the variability introduced by drying and grinding indeed made the field-moist test the better option. 

“There’s a lot of unpredictability that’s introduced from drying and grinding of soil samples, and it varies tremendously from field-to-field,” Prenier says.

Universal Compatibility

Early feedback on the field-moist system is encouraging, as one facet of the program users are receiving quite well is the data and analytical reporting software that’s included. A cloud-based system with mobile access across all platforms and compatible with all current precision ag systems, users clamor for the ease-of-access to their own data that Solum allows.

“Again, this system is online and very transparent — and can be shared with groups or subgroups,” Prenier says. “We’ve set this up to be very, very easy and sharable at any place, at any time.”

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionNext Generation Of Nitrogen Efficiency Technology Converts Nitrogen To Bushels
June 13, 2016
Commodity price projections indicate farmers will continue to face tight margins again this year. Delivering higher yields and more bushels Read More
FertilizerMSU: Early Lake Erie Algal Bloom Projections Positive
June 1, 2016
Over the past decade, Lake Erie has seen an increase of harmful algal blooms (HABs). These algal blooms are made Read More
FertilizerSimplot Introduces Fused-Safe Ammonium Sulfate Nitrate Fertilizer
May 31, 2016
The J. R. Simplot Co.’s new FŪSN fertilizer is now commercially available to growers. Simplot uses advanced technology to fuse Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes Announces Minnesota Water Quality Partnership
May 25, 2016
Governor Mark Dayton and Land O’Lakes, Inc. President and CEO Chris Policinski today announced a new public-private partnership to protect Read More
Trending Articles
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Eyeing Monsanto For Possible Mega-Merger
May 16, 2016
Bayer AG is exploring a potential bid for U.S. competitor Monsanto Co. in a deal that would create the world’s Read More
Aerial Drone
Precision AgA Deeper Dive Into The Future Of Precision Ag
May 9, 2016
For about two decades now, through the good and the bad times, the ups and the downs inherent in agriculture, Read More
Latest News
Eric SfiligojThe British Leave Vote Impact On EU Agriculture
June 27, 2016
Like virtually everyone else in the world this past week, I’ve watched the global reaction to Britain’s vote to exit Read More
Valent David Nothmann
Crop InputsValent Names David Nothmann Vice President Of Marketing
June 27, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has announced the appointment of David Nothmann as vice president of marketing. Nothmann will be responsible for Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stew…
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Contributes To Mayo Clinic
June 27, 2016
BRANDT, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of specialty agriculture products, has pledged a sizable donation to the Mayo Clinic Read More
ManagementReport: U.S. Farmland Values On Average Continue Gradua…
June 27, 2016
Land price movement has been in the forefront for farmers, landowners, lenders and land brokers for a decade now during Read More
AdjuvantsPrecision Laboratories Introduces Intact Xtra For Use W…
June 27, 2016
Precision Laboratories announces the launch of Intact Xtra, an adjuvant designed for applicators who want to maximize spray applications and Read More
Key Cooperative’s new liquid fertilizer, crop chemical, and seed facility in Grinnell, IA stores 1.5 million gallons of liquid fertilizer and 120,000 gallons of crop chemicals.
Retail FacilitiesKey Cooperative Facility Features The Latest In Murray …
June 27, 2016
When Key Cooperative wanted to improve the overall efficiency at its new state-of-the-art facility in Grinnell, IA, it turned to Read More
Allen Summers Asmark Institute PSM Training
EmployeesAsmark Institute Sponsors 25 ResponsibleAg Auditor Trai…
June 21, 2016
The Asmark Institute has announced plans to provide 25 scholarships through their affiliated State fertilizer and agrichemical associations to help encourage Read More
Kennebec Elevator
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Celebrates Kennebec Elevator Grand Openin…
June 21, 2016
Over 250 patrons and guests were on hand to celebrate Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Elevator grand opening. South Dakota Secretary of Read More
Land O Lakes
Industry NewsLand O’Lakes To Acquire Ceres
June 20, 2016
Land O’ Lakes, Inc. and Ceres, Inc. have announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which Land O’Lakes Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To …
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
LegislationVilsack Christens WinField Crop Adventure, Talks Monsan…
June 17, 2016
The WinField Crop Adventure grand opening ceremonies at Fair Oaks Farms (near Winemac, IN) welcomed USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Read More
Crop InputsFields of the Future: WinField Doubles Down with Agri-E…
June 16, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc., joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, today will host Fields of the Future, a live broadcast about Read More
Bayer sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Turns Back Bayer Again
June 14, 2016
Bayer AG’s bid to buy Monsanto Co. for more than $60 billion has hit an impasse that could pose a Read More
Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionNext Generation Of Nitrogen Efficiency Technology Conve…
June 13, 2016
Commodity price projections indicate farmers will continue to face tight margins again this year. Delivering higher yields and more bushels Read More
Industry NewsLa Crosse Seed Acquires Cover Crop Solutions Brand
June 10, 2016
La Crosse Seed announces that it is the new and exclusive owner of the entire family of brands of Cover Read More
ManagementTravel Plans and EU Rejection of Glyphosate, Biotech Cr…
June 9, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about upcoming trips and the latest in the European Union’s moves against glyphosate Read More