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

Illinois Researchers
FertilizerMeasure Of Age In Soil Nitrogen Could Help Precision Agriculture
July 26, 2016
What’s good for crops is not always good for the environment. Nitrogen, a key nutrient for plants, can cause problems Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
Precision AgSix Reasons Senior Executives Must Attend The First-Ever PrecisionAg Vision Conference
July 11, 2016
As I made a West Coast swing this spring to visit companies including The Climate Corp. and Planet Labs, there Read More
EquipmentSouth Dakota State: ‘All In’ On Precision Ag Education
July 6, 2016
Last summer, when we were in the midst of planning for our August PrecisionAg Innovation Series conference, we got an Read More
Craig Houin Sunrise Cooperative iPad
Precision AgState Of Precision Ag 2016: Gut Check Time For Value
May 31, 2016
There’s no denying that precision technologies and practices are more vibrant than ever. Equipment manufacturers have fine-tuned the hardware for Read More
Trending Articles
Southeast Farmers Coop - Finished Building
Retail FacilitiesNew Stueve Facilities Offer Ag Retailers Speed, Accuracy
July 9, 2016
Leading the industry in planning and constructing dry fertilizer storage and chemical warehouse solutions, Stueve Construction helped three ag retailers Read More
Heritage Cooperative
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Designs State-Of-The-Art Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 4, 2016
Heritage Cooperative in Marysville, OH, needed an efficient liquid, dry and grain facility to serve the many needs of their Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program
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
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
Latest News
FertilizerGypsum Added To List Of Conservation Practices
July 28, 2016
Crop farmers in a growing number of states may be eligible for financial assistance from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Read More
Management2016 CTIC Cover Crop Survey: 33% Report ROI From Cover …
July 28, 2016
Insight from 2,020 farmers from across the country reflected enthusiasm for cover crops and—for the fourth year in a row—found Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesStudy: Fall Weed Controls Can Make Significant Impact O…
July 28, 2016
An article published in the latest issue of the journal Weed Science shows that adopting harvest-time and post-harvest weed controls Read More
InsecticidesSyngenta: Beware Of Early Stinkbug Threat To Soybeans
July 28, 2016
With the record warm temperatures this past winter and confirmations from early entomologist reports, Syngenta encourages growers to monitor stinkbug Read More
Peanut field
Crop InputsVerdesian Introduces New Inoculant For Peanuts
July 28, 2016
As planning begins for the next growing season, Verdesian Life Sciences adds Primo Power CL, a new liquid inoculant, to Read More
Soil Young Corn
Crop InputsSmithsonian: 5 Things to Know About New GMO Labeling Bi…
July 27, 2016
On July 14, the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring large food companies to label products containing genetically modified Read More
Palmer pigweed in soybean stubble
HerbicidesSpecial Issue Of Weed Science Explores Human Aspects Of…
July 27, 2016
Weeds that evolve resistance to herbicides are a serious threat to global agricultural production. In this Special Issue of Weed Science, Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100CHS Businesses In Washington, Idaho Combining For Great…
July 27, 2016
As full-service ag retailers, CHS Primeland and CHS Farmers Co-op collectively serve farmers and other customers in 15 counties in Read More
Storage Tanks at Nachurs
Crop InputsNACHURS Joins Field to Market
July 27, 2016
NACHURS announced today that it has joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a leading multi-stakeholder initiative working Read More
Illinois Researchers
FertilizerMeasure Of Age In Soil Nitrogen Could Help Precision Ag…
July 26, 2016
What’s good for crops is not always good for the environment. Nitrogen, a key nutrient for plants, can cause problems Read More
Kochia
Crop InputsNufarm Launches New Herbicide for Resistant Kochia
July 25, 2016
Nufarm introduces Scorch herbicide for U.S. farmers and ranchers combating a broad range of troublesome broadleaf weeds. A unique premix Read More
ManagementNew Rabobank Report Calls for Farmer ROI Focus
July 25, 2016
As U.S. row crop farmers brace themselves for a third year of negative margins, Rabobank believes farmers must lower the Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsBloomberg: Syngenta-Chem China Deal on Track for Regula…
July 25, 2016
Syngenta AG, which has agreed to be taken over by China National Chemical Corp. for $43 billion, said talks with Read More
ManagementGROWMARK Meeting Visit, Company Takeover Updates, and R…
July 22, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent speaking engagement at GROWMARK’s eastern event, crop protection company merger rumors, Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto: EU Approves Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Imports
July 22, 2016
Monsanto Co. announced today that the European Commission has granted import approval for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. This milestone Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSyngenta Announces Alfalfa Seed Split Off
July 22, 2016
On September 1, 2016, Syngenta will transfer sales and distribution of alfalfa seed to the NEXGROW branded business that is Read More
Dow DuPont
Crop InputsDuPont, Dow Shareholders Approve Merger
July 21, 2016
DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company announced that, at their respective special meetings of stockholders held today, stockholders of both Read More
ManagementLand O’Lakes Announces SUSTAIN Business Unit, Oth…
July 20, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced the formal organization of a new business unit, SUSTAIN, and its leadership. SUSTAIN will focus Read More