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

EquipmentWhat Does FBN’s Latest Attempt At Disintermediation Really Mean For Ag Retailers?
February 6, 2017
When Farmer’s Business Network (FBN), the Silicon Valley-based ag data startup that promises to leverage all kinds of on-farm data Read More
Farmobile Dashboard Heat Map
Precision AgFarmobile’s EFR Dashboard Brings Real-Time Metrics To The Coffee Table
January 1, 2017
Farmobile is one of many data start-ups that we’ve been closely observing with a sense of keen curiosity since they Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
Trending Articles
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Latest News
Roy Blunt
LegislationARA Recognizes Blunt, Heitkamp For Legislative Efforts …
February 17, 2017
Agricultural industry continues to face federal regulatory challenges. Thankfully, agriculture’s allies in the U.S. Senate stepped forward. The Agricultural Retailers Read More
LegislationThe Fertilizer Institute Commends Senate On Confirmatio…
February 17, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn issued the following statement on the Senate confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Read More
Trump, Senate, Cabinet
LegislationBREAKING: Trump EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt Confirmed by S…
February 17, 2017
Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various Read More
ManagementFebruary Road Trip Edition
February 17, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent visits to Indiana and Kentucky. Read More
Heritage Cooperative Finished Building Aerial
ManagementHeritage Cooperative, Agland Co-op Approve Merger
February 17, 2017
Agland Co-op and Heritage Cooperative stockholders have both approved the merger agreement between Agland Co-op and Heritage Cooperative. Now begins Read More
LegislationARA Fly-In: Ag Retail Descends on Capitol Hill, Lawmake…
February 15, 2017
More than 100 agricultural retailers, distributors and suppliers headed to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning for the Agribusiness Congressional Fly-in, according to a Read More
Untreated soybean seed Heartland Coop
Seed/BiotechMarrone Bio Innovations, Groundwork BioAg Bio-stacked M…
February 13, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. and Groundwork BioAg, Ltd have announced successful seed treatment field trials of the world’s first all-biological Read More
NL5000 With G5 Technology
SpreadersNew Leader Introduces NL5000 Dry Nutrient Applicator Wi…
February 13, 2017
New Leader, a division of Highway Equipment Company (HECO), has announced the next generation of spreading technology with the NL5000 Read More
Fertilizer Storage
Crop InputsThe State Of The Fertilizer Industry
February 9, 2017
He’s all hat, no horse.” It’s a humorous way of describing a person who tells a good story, but is Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Agrees To Credit Agreement Amendme…
February 9, 2017
Pinnacle Operating Corp. has entered into an amendment (the “Amendment”) to its First Lien Credit Agreement that will provide for, Read More
ManagementUpdates on Upcoming Trips, Dow-DuPont, and the Des Moin…
February 9, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj review a few future travels, along with the latest on big company mergers and Read More
Championship Tractor Pull
EquipmentNational Farm Machinery Show Highlighted By Championshi…
February 9, 2017
The scream of monster engines, the stench of burning rubber and the ground-pounding vibrations of the country’s largest, loudest and Read More
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
Corn Field
InsecticidesArysta LifeScience, DuPont Collaborate On Rynaxpyr Prem…
February 8, 2017
Arysta LifeScience recently announced that it has entered into a global collaboration with DuPont Crop Protection for the development of Read More
Industry NewsThe Fertilizer Institute Board Elects New Chairman, Vic…
February 8, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute’s (TFI) Board of Directors has elected Chuck Magro, President and CEO of Agrium, and Tony Will, President Read More
Sonny Perdue
ManagementARA Joins More Than 600 Organizations In Support Of Per…
February 8, 2017
The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) recently joined with more than 600 agricultural groups on a letter of support for Governor Read More
World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit Panel 2016
Crop InputsWorld Agri-Tech Innovation Summit To Be Held In San Fra…
February 8, 2017
“Breakthrough Applications and Business Models for Sustainable Farming” is the theme of the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit to be held Read More
Cedar Country Cooperative
Eric SfiligojConsolidation In Agriculture: More Middle Movement
February 7, 2017
If you’ve regularly followed my column, you know I’m something of a movie junkie. Like many, one of my favorite Read More