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
Precision AgGoogle Glass: New Tool For Ag
October 8, 2014
New wearable smart technologies such as Google Glass show potential to greatly impact how we accomplish the business of feeding the world. Read More
Precision AgPrecision Agriculture: Finding The Payback
September 6, 2014
Profitability in precision ag is not about any one technology, but the result of employing technology in a total system approach that is agronomically sound. Read More
Precision AgUAS: The S Stands For Smart, Service And Sensors
May 1, 2014
The only thing occuring more rapidly than the technologies’ evolution is the clamoring to implement UAS into agriculture as soon as possible. Read More
Precision AgAg Retail: 3 Tech Trends To Watch In 2014
April 1, 2014
It's been a busy first quarter of technology developments in 2014. Here are some of the highlights, and things to watch in the months ahead. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100North Central Farmers Elevator, Wheat Growers Unification Approved By Board, Still Awaits Member Approval
May 13, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have voted to approve the Unification Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
Latest News
ManagementA New Sprayer Company & UAV Research In The Spotlig…
May 21, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about a Dutch sprayer manufacturer entering the U.S. with a super-sized entry and Read More
HerbicidesFirst U.S. Sale Of Enlist Duo Herbicide Made By Dow Agr…
May 21, 2015
Dow AgroSciences has recorded the first U.S. sale of Enlist Duo herbicide with Colex-D Technology. This marks the first commercial Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manu…
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
EquipmentNORAC Options Coming To TerraGator
May 19, 2015
Utilizing NORAC’s Standard Control technology, boom height control is now available for TerraGators with Airmax Precision 2 and Benson Booms. This Read More
Crop InputsHelena Introduces New Soil Health Product
May 19, 2015
Helena Chemical Co. is helping agricultural producers maximize yields and efficiency with the introduction of Liquid Chisel, a new product Read More
Stewardship4R Nutrient Management Planning Certification Now Avail…
May 19, 2015
The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and the International Certified Crop Adviser (ICCA) program announce a new specialty certification in Read More
Environmental Defense Fund logo
Paul SchrimpfEnvironmental Defense Fund: Appreciating Partners
May 19, 2015
I WAS deep in the throes of preparation for the Commodity Classic meeting that took place this past February, trying Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
May 19, 2015
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Syngenta Sign
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Responds To Lawyer’s Victory Claim In Vi…
May 18, 2015
A plaintiff’s lawyer has issued a public statement claiming that damages have been awarded in the Agrisure Viptera corn lawsuits Read More
StewardshipCould Australian Water Trading Approach Fit In Californ…
May 18, 2015
Ten years of drought isn’t a good thing. It doesn’t help the bottom line of farmers or the health of Read More
SpreadersDutch Sprayer Manufacturer To Enter U.S. Market
May 18, 2015
Dutch self-propelled sprayer manufacturer Agrifac Machinery has announced intentions to enter the U.S. market with two models of sprayers available Read More
FertilizerTFI Weighs In On Fertilizer Rail Transport Bill
May 14, 2015
With today’s House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as a backdrop, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) registered its support for policies Read More
ManagementA Visit To The 2015 Environmental Respect Spirit Award …
May 14, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about a recent visit to the CPS Spirit winner in St. Stephen’s Church, Read More
StewardshipBayer Entomologist Issues Statement On Annual Honeybee …
May 13, 2015
Richard (Dick) Rogers, Principal Scientist / Entomologist, Bayer Bee Care Center for Bayer CropScience LP, today issued the following statement Read More
Crop InputsKansas State Researchers Announce Resistant Kochia Brea…
May 13, 2015
Kansas State University researchers say new research helps explain why an invasive weed is developing resistance to a well-known herbicide, Read More
RR2X soybeans surround untreated check (center)
HerbicidesUSDA Study: Glyphosate Application More Prevalent In So…
May 13, 2015
Glyphosate—known by many trade names, including Roundup—has been the most widely used pesticide in the United States since 2001. It Read More
AdjuvantsHelena Chemical Introduces New Drift Control Adjuvant J…
May 13, 2015
Helena Chemical Co. introduces Justified, an innovative drift control agent designed to improve the performance and precision of spray applications Read More
CropLife 100North Central Farmers Elevator, Wheat Growers Unificati…
May 13, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have voted to approve the Unification Read More