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

Adams Decline Weigh Blender
BlendersFertilizer Blenders Take On Latest Additives, Heavy Workloads
February 2, 2016
As agronomy and precision ag sciences continue to advance, blender manufacturers have certainly had their part to play. “We are Read More
The Tule ET sensor in wine grapes.
Precision AgTule Technologies: Monitoring Water Stress Can Unlock Potential
February 2, 2016
Although we mostly stick to the things we know around these parts (corn and beans), we’ve strayed from the traditional Read More
Wacker Neuson WL34
EquipmentWacker Neuson: A Big Reputation With A Small Stature
February 2, 2016
Many observers to the agricultural marketplace might not know the name Wacker Neuson, Menomonee Falls, WI. While the company is Read More
MixMate from Praxidyn
BlendersPraxidyn Introduces Portable Ag Chemical Blending System
January 28, 2016
Praxidyn has introduced Mixmate – the portable agricultural chemical blending system. Mixmate streamlines or completely automates the mixing process with Read More
Top 100 Articles
Elburn Cooperative
CropLife 100Elburn Cooperative Members Vote To Join CHS
December 28, 2015
With 81% of eligible producers voting, 94% cast an affirmative ballot for Elburn Cooperative, a diversified agricultural retailer based out Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Farmers Cooperative-West Central Merger Approved
December 21, 2015
The members of Farmers Cooperative Co. (FC), Ames, IA, and West Central Cooperative, Ralston, IA, have both approved the merger Read More
Wheat Growers Innovation Center, Bath, SD
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Opens Innovation Center
December 21, 2015
Wheat Growers’ commitment in providing its farmer-owners with the latest in technological advancements now has a one-of-a-kind focal point, as Read More
CropLife 100ARA Selects The Andersons As 2015 Retailer Of The Year
December 9, 2015
The Agricultural Retailers Association today named Maumee, OH-based The Andersons as its Retailer of the Year for 2015. The award Read More
CPS Washington Court House John Deere Sprayer
CropLife 100Application Equipment Report: It Is Easy Being Green For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 5, 2015
On The Muppets television show, Kermit the Frog is famous for singing a song about the troubles he encounters in Read More
Fertilizer Bin
CropLife 100Fertilizer Sales: Another Down Year For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 4, 2015
In pure number terms, the fertilizer category still dominates all crop inputs/services among CropLife 100 ag retailers. In 2015, for Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Submits New Bio-Fungicide For E…
February 9, 2016
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI) today announced that it has submitted a new biological fungicide (MBI-110) to EPA. The broad spectrum Read More
Crop InputsWeed Expert: Adding A Second Herbicide Not Always Easy
February 9, 2016
In my last post, I reviewed some recent research that suggests one of the best ways to delay the evolution Read More
Crop InputsGenetic Literacy Project: Farmers Need More Herbicide C…
February 9, 2016
There are two things that I think just about every weed scientist can agree on, writes Andrew Kniss for The Read More
HerbicidesWeed Expert Warns North Dakota Growers Of Coming Herbic…
February 9, 2016
Ford Baldwin painted a bleak picture of weed control at a recent workshop here exploring the future of ag production, Read More
HerbicidesWSSA Announces New, Updated Free Web Resources
February 9, 2016
Today the Weed Science Society of American (WSSA) announced that new and updated educational materials for both weed scientists and Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesFour Arysta Fungicide Formulations Given FIFRA Approval…
February 8, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the issuance of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 2(ee) Recommendations for Read More
FungicidesAgri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus Receives EPA Registrat…
February 8, 2016
Vivid Life Sciences has announced the EPA registration of Agri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus, a highly concentrated active ingredient phosphite fungicide, Read More
Crop InputsBayer Contests EPA’s Decision On Valuable Insecticide F…
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, has announced it has refused a request by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Wins Seed Fraud Suit Against South Dakota Grow…
February 5, 2016
Syngenta has obtained a $25,000 settlement from Paul and John Mayclin, Mayclin Farms, Plankinton, SD, in response to their Plant Read More
ManagementOABA Annual Conference Wraps Up In Columbus
February 5, 2016
More than 300 Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) members and industry professionals were on hand to engage in collaborative learning and Read More
Crop InputsBayer To Contest EPA Flubendiamide Decision
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, announced today it has refused a request by EPA to voluntarily cancel the uses Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechNot So Fast: ChemChina Syngenta Takeover Could Draw Nat…
February 5, 2016
State-owned China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina), which plans to buy Swiss seeds and pesticide maker Syngenta, will promptly start preparations Read More
Rendering of Syngenta Seedcare Institute expansion
Seed/BiotechExpansion Of Syngenta’s North America Seedcare In…
February 4, 2016
As demand for seed treatment knowledge and products grows among farmers, retailers and others in the seed industry, Syngenta is Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Strengthens Sales Team
February 4, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced three new personnel additions: Jake Cook and Peter White are Territory Sales Managers for Read More
Davor Pisk Syngenta COO
Crop InputsSyngenta COO: Why ChemChina Offer Beat Monsanto’s
February 4, 2016
Syngenta Chief Operating Officer Davor Pisk says he is confident the proposed acquisition by ChemChina will ultimately help preserve choice Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsKoch Biological Solutions Invests In Pathway Biologic
February 4, 2016
An affiliate of Koch Biological Solutions, LLC has acquired a minority equity position in, and entered into collaboration with, Pathway Read More
Crop InputsABG: China Signs Off On Monsanto’s Roundup Ready …
February 3, 2016
Monsanto Co. on Wednesday announced it plans to launch its Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans in time for the 2016 Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop Inputs6 Things To Know About The ChemChina-Syngenta Deal
February 3, 2016
After months of rumors and speculation, Syngenta has announced that ChemChina has offered to acquire the Swiss-based company. “In making Read More