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

FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
Aerial view of the West Fertilizer explosion site
FertilizerFertilizer Companies Blame City For West, TX, Explosion
August 6, 2014
El Dorado Chemical Co. and CF Industries contend the city failed to properly train the first responders and had insufficient protocols in place to battle the April 17, 2013, blaze at West Fertilizer Co. that triggered the explosion. Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute: New President, Renewed Energy
February 3, 2014
Chris Jahn relishes the opportunity to lead the organization through the challenging times ahead. Read More
FertilizerA New Cycle For Fertilizer Demand
January 2, 2014
Changes in the corn market could have a major impact on the crop nutrients sector in 2014, say experts. Read More

Trending Articles

InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More

Latest News

StewardshipTFI Recognizes Michigan, Maryland Farms For 4R Stewards…
October 31, 2014
As farming practices increasingly attract interest from the general public, two farmers are ensuring they meet public approval. Read More
Eric SfiligojBig Brother Is Already Watching
October 31, 2014
Opponents to UAVs seem to think they could be used to spy on other people. But spying is already taking place, through the Internet. Read More
StewardshipAsmark Institute’s New Training Center Focused On…
October 31, 2014
The newly dedicated Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture will be used as a national training and education center for professionals in the ag input industry. Read More
StewardshipCTIC Tour Dives Deep Into Everglades
October 31, 2014
The most recent Conservation In Action Tour (CTIC) hit South Florida recently to tour the Everglades Agricultural Area. Read More
StewardshipResponsibleAg Begins Auditor Training
October 31, 2014
ResponsibleAg auditor training is now underway at the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture in Owensboro, KY. Read More
CropLife 100ValueAct Buys Stake In Fertilizer Dealer Agrium
October 30, 2014
ValueAct has bought 8.2 million shares in Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium, making them the second largest investor in the fertilizer dealer. Read More
InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
StewardshipUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to Read More
Crop InputsValent Launches New Low VOC ProGibb LV Plus Plant Growt…
October 29, 2014
ProGibb LV Plus PGR is a high-potency, liquid gibberellic acid formulation designed to comply with California’s new air quality standards for high volatile organic compound agricultural products. Read More
Crop InputsBayer CropScience Acquires Certain DuPont Crop Protecti…
October 29, 2014
Bayer CropScience and DuPont Crop Protection have signed an agreement for Bayer to purchase certain DuPont Crop Protection Land Management assets in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Read More
ManagementWest Central Names New President
October 29, 2014
West Central’s board of directors have announced their unanimous decision to name Milan Kucerak President and CEO-elect following Jeff Stroburg’s retirement at the end of the fiscal year. Read More
InsecticidesValent U.S.A., MGK Form Marketing Agreement
October 24, 2014
Valent has formed an agreement with Minneapolis-based MGK to manage the marketing and sales of MGK’s crop protection line of insect control products within the U.S. beginning April 1, 2015. Read More
StewardshipFlorida’s 4R Advocate Keeps Improving
October 24, 2014
Florida farmer Alan Jones uses the 4R principles of nutrient stewardship as the core of his fertility program, which allows him to maximize production and keep costs in check. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Named One Of The World’s Best Multinational …
October 23, 2014
Monsanto ranked No. 8 in the world’s largest annual study of workplace excellence that identifies the top 25 best multinational companies in terms of workplace culture. Read More
Crop InputsArysta Hires Former Agri-Chem, CPS Employee For Delta S…
October 23, 2014
New Territory Sales Manager Mark Peel’s primary role will focus on working with growers regarding fungicides in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Appointments In Plant Food Division
October 22, 2014
GROWMARK, Inc. has announced the three key staff changes in its Plant Food Division. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Appoints New VP Of Finance And Risk Management
October 22, 2014
Wade Mittelstadt has been named GROWMARK Vice President, Financial and Risk Mangement, effective December 1, 2014. Read More
FungicidesEPA Approves BASF In-Furrow Corn Fungicide
October 22, 2014
Field trials show Xanthion In-furrow fungicide provides more rapid emergence, extended residual control and improved seedling health than untreated crops. Read More