Recent farmer comparisons of soil health tests at differing labs are showing that despite analysis differences, health scores are more similar than one might expect judging from the national debate over soil methods. “If you look at any of these reports you are likely to draw similar conclusions” says Dr. Will Brinton of Woods End Labs. This finding is supported by at least two recently reported soil test projects c
When organic amendments such as manure or compost are soil applied it is difficult to predict response using ordinary soil tests. Several recent research projects have shed more light on intrinsic nutrient potential of natural fertilizers. The projects all employed Solvita tests including CO2-Burst and SLAN along with other conventional tests, and explored relationships to PMN and yields. Results clearly show that so
To have robust soil health your soil must first meet certain criteria for microbial activity. You can be a marathoner but your exercise regime, rest schedule and nutrition has to be right to succeed. The same applies to microbial activity. The home of microbes is the soil environment which must be suitable for them to flourish. And the quality of specific components determines the integrity of this house. Discussions
I like the analogy of an engine when talking about soil health. What is the size of your soil engine? Have you checked lately? Just like you use a dynamometer to measure the horsepower on a tractor you can use Solvita soil respiration to measure the horsepower of your soil.
The Solvita SLAN test has been gaining steadily as word of mouth, research trials and farmer reports show that organic-bound Nitrogen – the kind revealed by the SLAN test- is of real practical significance.
Blogs provide an excellent opportunity to share information and ideas, discuss management practices and respond to questions from readers. In short – it is a place for a virtual agronomist, like myself to share information on soil health, i.e. what is it, how to measure it and how to manage it and discuss a host of other related topics and ideas.
In science it is often the case that increasing the sample size decreases the variance of the result, meaning large samples produce better estimates of content than do small samples. Soil laboratories use only a few grams of soil per sample for regular nutrient analyses, employing equipment that makes up for soil minutiae with low-level detection capability.
Italy to many, is the birthplace of farming with a soil nomenclature system dating from 500 AD. In the mere distance of Maine to North Carolina they have all four major soil temperature groups – frigid, mesic, thermic and hyperthermic and 4-times the soil unit diversity of the USA.
Interesting and potentially very valuable relationships between CO2 respiration and soil conditions have recently been revealed in a soil monitoring project using the Solvita basal CO2 test. At the Woods End Farm, staff take a soil sample each week and perform in-situ soil respiration (Solvita Basal), without processing the soil, thereby avoiding artifacts.
Soil health testing needs its own set of calibrations and guidelines in order to have its potential fully realized. This has come into focus recently with studies on how soils behave biologically. Normally, when a soil dries out, a sudden addition of rain or irrigation water produces a well-known effect – the “CO2-Burst” – a surge of respiration by microbes springing into action.
Calling it a “health check for your soil” England’s largest independent soil testing firm NRM Laboratories (Berkshire & Norfolk) has introduced UK’s first Soil Health test. The analysis features Solvita as the cornerstone biology test for CO2 evolution combined with a suite of physical and chemical parameters useful to growers.
Farmer interest and innovation in cover cropping is reaching new heights as witnessed by hundreds of farmer attendees at 2 farm events organized by the PA No-Till Alliance in late August. Upgrades and improvements in equipment – many of them designed by farmers – provide almost unsurpassed control in cover cropping and reseeding into no-tilled soils.
Soil CO2 respiration should be center-stage in the emerging Soil Health discussion, according to Brinton who addressed a recent Soil Renaissance gathering in Oklahoma City. He showed early data from the Swedish soil ecologist Lundegårdh who first quantified plant CO2 demand due to photosynthesis and contrasted it with soil CO2 respiration. A biologically active soil was able to cover the plant’s carbon budget b
Soil Health aficionados like to say that roots and worms make channels down into the soil – transferring nutrients and carbon between soil layers. What this looks like in reality was made clear at a recent Soil Health field-day in Berwick, PA, sponsored by NRCS and the PA No-till Alliance, with crop consultant Gerard Troisi and soil tester Will Brinton from Woods End Lab, Maine. A soil pit dug in the triticale cover
Imagine an ideal soil climate, little or no soil tillage, and rotational animal grazing: what’s the soil health of that system? We ran Solvita on soils from the North Island of New Zealand (near where the epic fantasy film The Hobbit was shot) and saw some unusual results: “the Solvita test seems to be all done after only a few hours” NZ consultant Horatio Payne reported. On close examination, the
The “El Camino de Santiago” trail is known to adventurers and Christian pilgrims who traverse this path from France into north-western Spain. Along the way, one experiences the striking, semi-arid Castile y León region farmed to wheat & barley for the last 500 years. Solvita shareholder and former organic farmer, Christopher Brinton, hiked El Camino this summer and was curious about the soil quality h
“They are actually growing soil here”, John Chibirka (USDA-NRCS PA) told the 19th annual Cover Crop and Soil Health gathering of 300 farmers on Steve Groff’s no-till-cover crop farm in Holtwood PA. He was referring to when the 2006 World Soil Congress visited Steve’s farm and found by in situ tests that 20 years of cover-cropping and no-till had resulted in formation of new soil overlaying the topsoil. To the north,
Solvita is used by many commercial soil labs and several labs are now being tracked by independent test proficiency programs. Results so far are promising: a comparison of Woods End’s control results and those reported by other labs shows a high degree of correlation (see Figure). “This means that other labs are basically reporting the same data that we are”, says Brinton, developer of Solvita. Pro
A new soil test from Solvita called SLAN reveals a hidden pool of organic nitrogen that is “just beneath the surface, and seems indicative of soil improvement”, says developer Will Brinton. The SLAN test like the Solvita CO2-test takes only minutes to set up and is read after 24hrs with a digital reader. Continuous cultivation of soils depletes humus and soil biology, and estimates are that USA soils are presently 3
The practice of fertilizing soils based on hoped-for crop yields while ignoring nutrients already present in the soil or about to be released by biological processes may be directly contributing to a potentially explosive situation of algal blooms on the Great Lakes – and other places. Images that NOAA has released over a 10-year period for Lake Erie show that in 2011 the algal bloom was the most extensive R
Soil Health is a new paradigm in no-till farming, and very evidently a fast-growing grassroots movement that “threatens” to unite all farmers. Attendees at a farm workshop in Carrol, Ohio said they wished the movement will be recognized not only by no-tillers but organic and conventional farmers as well. More than 300 persons converged on David Brandt’s no-till corn, bean and grain farm on April 10 to lea
A recent research project conducted at Woods End shows that the simple-to-perform Solvita test for compost gives essentially identical information about compost aging as does more expensive IR (infrared) analysis. The funded research project compares two types of compost (manure vs yard-waste) over a 180-day period, subjecting the piles to quadruplicate tests to see how various indexes change with time. Like many bi
Woods End announced the release of its new Model 700 Solvita DCR which incorporates upgrades for new soil test capabilities and improved performance with electronic integration. The upgrade is being timed with NAPT’s 2013 acceptance of the Solvita CO2-burst test as a provisional lab method. A new channel has been added for field (basal) CO2 respiration testing, coinciding with USDA-NRCS’s new “So
An informal study conducted by Woods End during the past 3 years examining quality of Maine manures used for compost, may have mushroomed into a focus on herbicide carryover specific to horse manures. When Vermont reported a case of compost chemical contamination, Woods End alerted the Chittenden compost facility about carryover risk of herbicides specifically in horse manures and their feedstuffs. “The result