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

MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Factory Layoffs
August 18, 2014
Deere & Co. has announced it will reduce the size of its manufacturing workforce at some agricultural equipment factories in response to current market demand for its products. Read More
A finished Willmar 16-ton side-shooting tender.
TendersNew Production Facility Helps Willmar
July 17, 2014
In 1963, a group of businessmen started Willmar. Today, a half-century later, the company is one of the ag industry’s longest-running brands. Read More
SprayersHooded Sprayers Help Minimize Spray Drift
May 15, 2014
Willmar Fabrica­tion's hooded sprayers have the potential to minimize pesticide drift, especially when combined with other drift reduction technologies, such as drift retardant adjuvants or low-drift nozzles. Read More

Trending Articles

MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More
ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science Review
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More
EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechBerendes Joins Verdesian Board Of Directors
September 2, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences announced that Robert Berendes has recently joined the company's board of directors. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
WebinarsWebinars On Demand
September 2, 2014
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
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches Performance Agriculture Brand
September 2, 2014
Performance Agriculture complements Pinnacle’s existing brands, including Sanders, the company’s flagship farm input retail brand. Read More
Webinars5 Key Benefits Of Attending A Webinar
September 2, 2014
Webinars can provide ag retailers with a convenient option for gaining knowledge on the latest industry issues and solutions. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Is Betting On A Bright Agricultural Future
September 1, 2014
The crop protection products giant is gearing up for a busy time in agriculture by investing in both product production and development over the next couple of years. Read More
Eric SfiligojAn Erie Feeling For Ag
September 1, 2014
Plenty of water issues have been in the news lately, including the continuing drought in California. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires California-Based Retailer
August 29, 2014
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings will acquire Kerman Ag Resources, Inc., which will operate under Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
Allied Cooperative Grain Plant
ManagementArcadia Co-op To Merge With Allied Cooperative
August 28, 2014
Allied Cooperative has announced that members of Arcadia Co-op voted in favor of a merger with Allied Cooperative, paving the way for the consolidation which will be effective on December 1, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesBioinsecticide VENERATE Now Registered In California
August 27, 2014
Marrone Bio Innovations' VENERATE is a new tool to help California growers control crop-damaging insect pests, fight the development of insect resistance and reduce pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Read More
CropLife 100Two Iowa-Based Ag Co-ops To Merge
August 27, 2014
The Board of Directors and management of United Western Coop, Missouri Valley, IA has completed a merger with Heartland Co-op, West Des Moines, IA, effective September 1, 2014. Read More
FertilizerKoch Expands AGROTAIN Nitrogen Stabilizer Portfolio
August 26, 2014
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC has added two new innovative nitrogen stabilizers to the AGROTAIN product family – AGROTAIN ADVANCED and AGROTAIN DRI-­MAXX. Read More
Seed/BiotechDuPont To Build Two Seed Treatment Centers
August 26, 2014
DuPont has announced construction on two state-of-the-art centers dedicated to developing and testing seed treatment formulations, applications and seed handling techniques in an important step toward bringing new solutions to growers. Read More
Seed/BiotechLoveland Products Acquires A Controlling Interest In Ag…
August 26, 2014
Loveland Products, a subsidiary of Agrium , has announced the company has acquired a controlling interest in Agricen, a Dallas-area agricultural biotechnology company delivering biochemical-based products for efficient and sustainable plant nutrition. Read More
StewardshipUp Close Look At The 2014 Environmental Respect Award W…
August 25, 2014
The 2014 Environmental Respect Award winners were honored recently at the 24th annual event in Wilmington, DE. Read More
Eric SfiligojAg Science Rejection Carries Consequences
August 25, 2014
As innuendo and fear dog the regulatory process, agriculture can’t get the new tools it needs to combat world hunger. Read More
LegislationFarmers Dismayed As New Farm Bill Dumps Direct Payments
August 25, 2014
The threatened end of cash subsidies to the nation’s row crop farmers dates back through at least the last two iterations of national agriculture policy legislation. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More