Soil Sampling: The New, Old Way

Solum's Wet K Process Machines
Solum’s Wet K Process Machines

This year, Solum Inc. is officially launching its new wet potassium (K) soil testing process to the industry. In a nutshell, this will allow customers to have their soils tested for K content in a wet slurry rather than the near bone dry mixtures usually used for this procedure.

And when you consider all the factors, says Nick Koshnick, co-founder and CEO of Solum, it makes perfect sense to use a wet method to accurately test K levels in soil samples. “Crops live in field moist soil,” says Koshnick. “They don’t live in baked, pulverized soil – unless they are growing somewhere in Arizona.”

Despite this fact, the ag industry’s accepted method of K soil sampling has used dried soil. In this process, lab technicians take a soil sample, dry it in an oven for six to 12 hours and crush it into a fine powder. They then take a sub-sample of this mixture, add chemical re-agents to extract plant available nutrients, and then measure the amount of the extracted nutrients.

Unfortunately, says Koshnick, these final results can sometimes give artificially higher K readings. “If you have a soil sample that has a lot of clay in it, there might be quite of bit of K stuck in those inter-layers,” he says. “Heating and crushing will release this into the general sample and could give a higher K reading then is actually plant available. For the customer, the most useful reading from the soil sample is the K that can actually be taken up by the growing plant. When the soil processing artificially increases or decreases the measured K values, it decreases your ability to accurately predict when the crop will respond to applied potash.”

A Wet History

In truth, says Koshnick, soil researchers have known about this “changing K possibility” for heated samples since the late 1950s. And for many years, soil sampling labs such as the one at Iowa State University (ISU) did offer a wet K soil sampling process as an alternative. However, performing wet K sampling at this time proved to be ultimately more expensive/time-consuming than dry sampling, so the university discontinued its wet K testing program back in 1988.

But according to Koshnick, wet K sampling was in many ways a superior soil testing method compared with dry. “The whole concept of field moist processing was to measure the soil sample as close to field conditions as possible,” he says. “That was something I agreed with.”

So, when Solum began operation a few years ago, Koshnick saw an opportunity to return wet K soil sampling to the mix. “K was something that many people didn’t really put a lot of attention into, but research has shown that an adequate supply of it in the soil can increase yields dramatically,” he says. “Given how important increasing yields have become in agriculture over the past few years, I thought it made sense to look for better ways to determine K levels for the end users.”

The Solum team then spent several months designing and building automated machines specially built to handle wet K soil sampling, which they used to measure commercial soil this past fall. “These machines ran 18 hours per day processing samples for our customers,” says Koshnick. “And we are building the next generation of machines right now.”

The Wet K Method

To conduct its wet K soil sampling method, Solum researchers receive a soil sample from a customer at the company’s Ames, IA, facility. These are marked with radio-frequency identification tags and then lightly blended to get a sub-samples for testing. “The sub-sample is first tested for its moisture content,” says Koshnick. “Researchers then add water to the sub-sample and it goes into one of our testing units. They then do some chemical extracting of the sample to get a proper K reading.” In total, he adds, this whole process allows Solum to turn around the soil sample for its customers in one to three business days.

During 2013, Koshnick expects many customers interested in getting an accurate reading on their K soil levels will come to Solum for help. “I remember talking with someone at ISU and them telling me that dropping wet K soil sampling from their agricultural offerings back in 1988 ‘was a big mistake,’” he says. “Now, using our resources, we can again offer the industry this important method for determining K levels in our soils.”

Leave a Reply

Equipment Stories

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
SoftwareHD Precision Analytics Launches New Mobile App For Agriculture Market
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
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
BlendersNorth Dakota Coop Debuts Dry Fertilizer Plant
September 22, 2016
North Central Grain Cooperative has begun operations at a new dry fertilizer plant at its Rolla, ND, site. It is 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
4r Nutrient stewardship
StewardshipNominations For The 4R Advocate Program Due October 31
October 24, 2016
Nominations for the 4R Advocate program are due to The Fertilizer Institute by October 31, 2016. The program recognizes agricultural Read More
Corn close up
Eric SfiligojProtecting Agriculture’s Ability To Feed The World
October 24, 2016
The rate of change coming to agriculture is growing, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This Read More
Student Young Worker CHS
CropLife 100CHS Supports #FirstJob Compact
October 24, 2016
CHS joins the White House and many of the country’s largest employers in signing a new initiative centered on helping Read More
Kennebec Grain terminal
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Kennebec Facility Loads First Rail Cars
October 21, 2016
In a season of firsts for Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Grain Terminal, the first 115-car unit train was loaded with soybeans Read More
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