Soil Test System Is A Game Changer

No-Wait Nitrate system

Precision technology has revolutionized practices throughout agriculture, from field guidance to application to planting. But while electronic connectivity and overnight delivery improved the soil testing process, there hasn’t been a major challenge to the way soil tests have been conducted since the proliferation of the dry test in the late 1980s.

A young company called Solum, Inc. is aiming to change that in the very near future. Founded by a group of Stanford physicists with ties to agriculture, Solum has devised a scalable, high-throughput technology for testing samples that are “field-moist” — not dried — using a system that is completely portable and wirelessly tethered to tech support.

Conducting tests using field-moist samples — essentially whatever moisture level the sample contains at removal — was the definitive method for soil testing prior to the precision agriculture movement and its emphasis on generating soil test data rapidly. The dry sample regimen proved simpler and less costly to proliferate, so soil moist sampling fell out of favor.

Solum’s technology brings together the speed of the dry sampling method with the improved analysis that field-moist sampling delivers.

“The field-moist process focuses on what the plant sees,” says Landon Morris, Solum’s vice president of business development and marketing. “So by using this method you get a more accurate and reliable result.

“We are taking all the logistical and operational challenges associated with field-moist sampling from 20 years ago and removing them from the equation,” he continues. “This is very scalable and very solution-oriented, and it works whether you are measuring potash, or phosphorus, or zinc or nitrogen. The same technology allows us to analyze all soil nutrients using the field-moist process.”

The scalability aspect has been designed for retailers who want to run their own lab tests. Using a water supply and a 110-volt power supply, the testing equipment is fully portable and self-contained. And running a sample is as simple as placing the soil in the machine and pushing the start button. Results are returned in minutes.

Nitrogen Now

Solum is working to bring a full range of testing capabilities to agriculture with its field-moist sample system, but its first priority has been to bring portable, in-the-field nitrogen testing to market.

Called the No-Wait Nitrate system, the system’s accuracy was equivalent to the standard cadmium reduction test in an independent study overseen by Robert O. Miller, affiliate professor at Colorado State University and technical director of the Agriculture Laboratory Proficiency Pro­gram early last year.

During the 2011 season, retailers, growers and consultants across the US field tested the No-Wait Nitrate system, with results that proved the concept. More than 11,000 field-moist samples were pulled and analyzed last year, truly putting the system through its paces.

The system provides a faster and more reliable method for spring applied or split nitrogen application regimens, and can also be used to monitor nitrogen mineralization and leaching. It’s possible for an application to be made the same day, virtually eliminating the potential for soil nitrate changes from the time the sample is taken and analyzed. Weather events that occur between the time the sample is taken and the results are returned can significantly alter the nitrate profile of a field. With No-Wait Nitrate, the sample is pulled and tested in the field in soil moist condition, and available nitrate results are returned in minutes.

Other Testing

Deficiencies in the currently accepted method of testing soil have generally resulted in an inaccurate characterization of nutrient availability. The act of drying the soil often affects the integrity of the sample. Morris says that other nutrient testing using the field-moist sample regimen is available now via the traditional “sample and send” method for less time sensitive nutrient samples such as potash, phosphorus and zinc.

In addition to nutrient content measurement, Solum is working on a new, promising data layer for precision practitioners to consider: Particle size distribution.

“We are challenging the status quo on soil texture,” says Morris. Using an apparatus called a laser diffractometer; soil slurry can be analyzed to get a measure of particle size distribution which would relate to factors such as water and nutrient holding capacity.

Still in the early stages of research, Morris says that they hope the new data will fit well in a total precision soil analysis. “We’re running tests on particle size distribution this summer and interpreting the data along with some other bits of information,” he explains. “It’s one piece of the puzzle, but we feel that how it relates to other data layers will have important implications.”

For more information, check out Solum’s website here.

Leave a Reply

Precision Ag Stories

Corn Field
FertilizerBridging Crop Nutrition Science And Technology
September 7, 2016
The future seemed to draw nearer for the 1,600-plus attendees of the co-located InfoAg and International Precision Agriculture conferences in St. Read More
Deere R4023 cab
Precision AgPrecision Ag Aids Fertilizer Programs
September 6, 2016
Whatever the farm economy may look like, retailers need to continue to develop a sound fertility program to reach the Read More
EquipmentCase IH Debuts Nutri-Tiller 955 Strip-Till Applicator
August 24, 2016
With strip-till continuing to expand across new acres, Case IH designed the new Nutri-Tiller 955 strip-till applicator to help producers Read More
EquipmentCase Launches Aim Command FLEX, 25th Anniversary Patriot Sprayer
August 24, 2016
Case IH announces new AIM Command FLEX advanced spray technology for greater application accuracy, as well as special 25th Anniversary Read More
Trending Articles
AGCO RG700 cab
OpinionRoadblocks To Precision Ag Innovation
October 5, 2016
On August 29, I got to preside over the PrecisionAg Innovation Series event, “Game-Changing Advances in Precision Farming Technology,” developed Read More
J.C. Ramsdell containment system
EquipmentClear Opportunity In The Tank Market
October 4, 2016
Crop prices may be down, but steel prices are too — and that’s good news for retailers looking to add some Read More
WinField booth Farm Progress
Special ReportsTalking Weed Management Strategies At Farm Progress 2016
October 2, 2016
The annual Farm Progress Show — this year staged in Boone, IA — is always a great place to catch Read More
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Crop InputsBayer-Monsanto Mega-Merger: 6 Things You Need To Know
September 14, 2016
Mega mergers have become almost routine in the agricultural industry. Right on the heels of Monday’s news that fertilizer giants Potash Read More
Potash Corp Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium, Potash Corp To Merge To Create $36 Billion Company
September 12, 2016
Canada’s Agrium Inc. and Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc. have agreed to combine in a deal that would create a Read More
Latest News
ManagementThe Latest Dow-DuPont Rumor, Product of the Year Voting…
October 20, 2016
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj shares a new rumor about the Dow-DuPont merger and updates on two CropLife-driven programs, the CropLife Read More
Soybean Closeup
FungicidesFMC Begins Registration Process For New Fungicide Activ…
October 19, 2016
FMC Agricultural Solutions has begun the joint U.S. EPA and Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency registration process for bixafen, a new Read More
Soil Young Corn
Industry NewsAgribusiness Search Firm Appoints New Managing Partner
October 18, 2016
Morris Bixby Group, a leading agribusiness search firm providing the highest quality professional recruiting and career advancement services since 2000, Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
FertilizerUnited Suppliers Acquires Kansas Fertilizer Business
October 17, 2016
United Suppliers, Inc. has purchased the assets of Evans Enterprises, LLC, an ammonium chloride fertilizer business based in Olathe, KS. Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsFMC Launches New Operations In Argentina, Exits Joint V…
October 17, 2016
FMC Corp. has exited its joint venture with Ruralco Soluciones S.A. FMC has launched new commercial operations, FMC Quimica S.A., Read More
Dow AgroSciences
InsecticidesRenewed Registration Issued For Products Containing Sul…
October 17, 2016
On October 14, 2016, the U.S. EPA re-established the registration of products containing sulfoxaflor (Isoclast Active), including Transform WG, Closer Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Whys Of Agriculture
October 17, 2016
During 2016, there have been myriad challenges facing the whole agricultural industry. Such wide ranging issues as water protection, sustainable Read More
Young Corn Field
FertilizerImproved Phosphorus Management Essential To Feeding Wor…
October 14, 2016
With a global population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, improved management of key essential nutrients such as Read More
ManagementHarvest and Crop Price Updates; EPA and Crop Protection…
October 13, 2016
Glyphosate and atrazine get public comment support from ARA as each is reviewed by EPA, and the latest on the Read More
Matt Hopkins15 Twitter Accounts Every Ag Professional Must Follow
October 13, 2016
What do singer Katy Perry and the President of the United States have in common? They are two of the Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Adds Two Key Account Managers
October 13, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the addition of two key account managers: Doug Hoberty and Rob Wier. Hoberty and Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Development Deal with Scherer Design
October 12, 2016
Deere & Co. announces a joint development agreement with Scherer Design Engineering, Inc. to develop and commercialize kernel processing solutions Read More
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Celebrates 10 Years Of Innovati…
October 12, 2016
Richard Rominger, former Deputy Secretary of the USDA and former agricultural secretary of California, emceed a 10th anniversary luncheon celebration on Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Industry NewsVive Crop Protection Closes Financing To Support Corpor…
October 11, 2016
Vive Crop Protection has announced the closing of growth financing to support 2017 commercial expansion. The financing was led by Read More
SoftwareHD Precision Analytics Launches New Mobile App For Agri…
October 11, 2016
AGSentry from HD Precision Analytics is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that offers simple data service and actionable analytics tool. It focuses Read More
HerbicidesWeed Control And Soil Health Go Hand-in-Hand
October 10, 2016
Although many landowners may not give much thought to weed control as a soil health measure, Gared Shaffer, South Dakota Read More
Students Soybean Field
Eric Sfiligoj2016 Young Leaders Speak
October 10, 2016
One of the consistent cries in agriculture today is the need to try and connect with the younger generations, attempting Read More
ManagementVision Conference Preview, Monsanto Earnings, and Produ…
October 7, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the upcoming PrecisionAg Vision meeting in Arizona, Monsanto’s latest revenue numbers, and Read More