Minutes of 2005 Mid-Atlantic Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Work Group

Southern States Building
Richmond, VA
February 23-24, 2005

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Steve Heckendorn called the meeting to order. He announced that the group had met for 30 years. Private labs joined in 1981.

Phil Howard with Southern States welcomed everyone to Southern States. He commented that Southern States had undergone restructuring over the past several years and had re-established their pre-1998 financial stability. Our lunch was provided by Southern States and they also served great breaks during our stay. Again, they were excellent hosts of our meeting.

Noble Usherwood and Bill Segars who are retired from industry and university backgrounds are currently working with Southern States' Growmasters program. Specifically they have been working with top growers who they refer as their "blue-chip" customers on nutrient management in a pilot program. They provided an overview of this program.

Georgia's new pH & Lime Requirement Method: David Kissel

The new soil pH and lime requirement test was implemented at the University of Georgia on November 1, 2005. The basis for the new UGA soil pH and lime requirement test was presented along with comparisons of soil pH in water vs soil pH in 0.01 Molar calcium chloride. The equations used for calculation of the lime buffer capacity were described along with the equation to calculate the lime recommendation based on the results from the soil pH measurements and the target pH for a crop. The reaction of clientele to the new test was discussed. Dr. Kissel also provided 2 brochures that they are using to introduce the new method.

Mehlich Buffer Updates

Ann Wolf report on Mehlich buffer, Penn State University

Ann Wolf showed comparisons of lime predicted by the Mehlich buffer on Pennsylvania soils with amounts predicted for the same soils by equations used in North Carolina and Maine. The quantities predicted by all 3 states are highly correlated (r2's > 0.90) with slopes between 0.8-1.25 suggesting that the calibrations on the diverse soils from these 3 states are very similar. PSU method utilizes calcium chloride in its method due to waste concerns with barium chloride in the original method.

Greg Mullins report on Mehlich buffer, Va. Tech.

Mehlich buffer provided a good estimate of estimating exchangeable acidity as measure by 1N KCL extraction determined over 5 target pH ranges. They have also compared results from an incubation study (3 months) BpH measurements. Results from PSU and Va. Tech. are nearly identical. The new lime requirement is planned for implementation in early summer (June-July, 2005).

Nitrogen Soil Tests

Jared Williams, NCSU Graduate Student under direction of Carl Crozier

Promising results were reported regarding the use of a modified version of the Illinois amino sugar N test to predict residual N availability and the economic optimum N rate for corn in North Carolina. The major modification to NC work was a more standardized heat source, a laboratory incubator. In contrast to most studies evaluating this test, only one site had received manure in the past. Additional evaluation of two other soil N tests, anaerobic incubation and a gas pressure test, were performed but these gave more variable results with replicate sample analysis.

Doug Beegle, Penn State University

Their work with the Illinois test included a variety of sites (responsive and non-responsive), rotations, and tillage. Results were observed using Kate-Nelson plots. The test does not appear to in PA soils. Also the test does not "pick up" manure. Work with soil nitrate measurements at-plant and at pre-sidedress appear better and encouraging. Efforts with chlorophyll meter and late season stalk nitrate test were discussed.

Greg Binford, University of Delaware

Work was conducted in DE to see if test has value in sites with manure history. Conclusions were similar to PSU in that this test does not measure N from fields where manure history exists. There also was no strong relationship between N measurements and soil organic matter. No further tests are planned for DE.

Lunch: Sponsored by Southern States

Steve Phillips, Asst. Professor, Va. Tech.

Presented information on work with variable rate N application. Utilized a Green-SeekerTM variable rate nutrient applicator. Information was also presented on N fertility management of white potato production in VA.

David Hardy, NCDA&CS, Historical View of NC Soil Test P Data

Generally, increases in STP have occurred statewide over the past 20 years, except in tobacco fields where levels are already high or very high. The greatest increase in STP has been associated with hay production used for swine and poultry waste management. Factors that contribute to STP trends include shallower sample depth, adoption of precision sampling, and changes in laboratory methodology (color to ICP).

Mark Flock, Brookside Laboratories

  1. P Sediment study: A watershed study compared results of Mehlich III P results to bioavailable P (Iron oxide impregnated strip test) on sediments in tributaries and on the lake bottom of an environmentally sensitive watershed. There was a very good correlation of the Mehlich III test to the Bio Available P test.
  2. Sports turf testing. Key areas for sports fields testing were discussed. The detailed geotech testing required by the USGA with mandatory ISO 17025 was discussed in detail.

Bob Dussich, Spectro Analytical Instruments

Bob mentioned that he was new to the area with his territory. Spectro has new solid state instrumentation (CIROS-VISION) that should be a good replacement for the workhorse Thermo 61E that has been popular among soil test labs. A new benchtop model would be displayed at Pittcom that costs in the $60K range.

Steve Heckendorn, Update for Labfit

Labfit, a global company based in Perth, Western Australia, can manufacture custom instrumentation for specific applications. Labfit now offers the AS-3300 Autoweigh for automating repetitious weighing, such as for Loss-On-Ignition analysis. For a fully automated, from initial weighing to cleaning the crucibles, LOI analysis system that can process 2,500 samples in 24 hours, Labfit is developing the TGA-4000 Robotic Thermogravimetric Analyser. See their web site at www.labfit.com for more information. The majority of labs in this group that are using AS-3000 pH Analyzers have signed up for Labfit's hardware and software upgrades.

Virtual Lab Tour, Ann Wolf, Penn State University

Ann presented a virtual lab tour of PSU laboratories (soil fertility, plant analysis, and environmental testing PSU.

The group went to dinner at the Steak and Ale. A social was sponsored by Spectro Analytical Instruments Inc. that was represented by Bob Dussich, Regional Sales Mgr. Bob also treated us to desert!!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The group expressed appreciation to Phil Howard for continuing support of our program and years of promoting soil testing to the agricultural industry.

The group was asked to send their email addresses to Steve Heckendorn so he could forward to Bob Dussich for his records of contacts.

There was also mention of Bob Miller with NAPT program needing check soils. Fifteen, 5-gallon containers are needed. Bob will send a mixed soil back for use as a check if 5 extra buckets are submitted.

Ann Wolf gave a brief update for Karen Gartley (absent) on the PAP program for western states. Of 22 labs, 18 passes and 4 failed. Two of the four also failed the routine NAPT program. Another year of the program will run.

Before state reports were given, there was a good discussion about discrepancies between recommendations of government or university and private labs. Cost of sample analysis was also discussed.

Lab Reports

Clemson: As of July 1, 2005 Clemson's lab and everyone who works there will no longer be under Extension. They will be under the Regulatory division. Otherwise, they're operating as usual. Spectro plans to replace Clemson's ICP with their newest CIROS-VISION model. One thing after another has broken down on Clemson's current CIROS model. (The lab has been waiting almost a year now for the new instrument). Clemson's sample totals have stayed about the same for most sections with a little increase in the plant tissue total. {presented by Steve Heckendorn}

NCDA&CS- Soil Testing Laboratory: The lab analyzed 281,312 samples, up 12% from FY2003. Turnaround time was kept in the general range of 6 to 8 weeks. The lab reached a milestone in March, 2004, by analyzing a record number of 59,311 samples for the month. Low soil pH is still a major concern. Manganese deficiency is still prominent in soybeans and small grains, particularly on sandy coastal plains soils that have been overlimed. Changes/updates: equipment and labware to analyze 2,700 samples daily; addition of 4th pH station; process of updating LIMS; acquiring segmented flow auto-analyzer for speciation work (ortho-P, sulfate, nitrate); acquiring new conductivity meter; plans to change drying system, with possibility of rolling carts.

Dr. Richard Reich has left the Agronomic Division to take on new responsibilities as an Asst. Commissioner for NCDA&CS. The Director position is vacant and Dr. Collen Hudak-Wise is the acting director as well as Asst. Director and Section Chief for the Plant/Waste/Solution lab. (David H. Hardy, reporting)

NCDA&CS- Plant/Waste/Solution Laboratory

The overall number of samples analyzed by the Plant, Waste and Solution Section increased slightly in FY 2004. In FY2004 a total of 37,313 samples were analyzed compared to 37,242 in FY 2003.

Updates and Changes to the PWS Lab: In the process of updating our LIMS system for all laboratories; in the process of purchasing a new conductivity meter for pH and soluble salts; plans are in place for completing the renovation of our digestion room, possibly within the next few months. Two new total-exhaust workstations will be purchased; one station will have a built-in Maelstrom Scrubber; supplier will be Salare (formerly Labguard Corp.). A new muffle furnace will also be purchased. Other long-range plans include installation of a central vacuum system for our grinding room and purchase of a new Wiley mill.

(Colleen Hudak-Wise, Assistant Director and Chief-Plant/Waste/Solution Section)

A & L Eastern Labs: Analyzing 1,200 to 1,500 samples daily. Plans were to switch to Mehlich 3 before July 1, if not sooner. (Paul Chu reporting).

University of Georgia: The 2004 fiscal year's routine soil samples decreased by about 5% (101,548 to 89,704) compared to FY 2003 but water, animal wastes, and plant samples increased. New Procedures: The UGA soil test lab adopted a new method for measuring soil pH and lime effective July 1, 2004. The new method include measurement of pH in 0.01 M CaCl2 and determining the soil pH buffering capacity by measuring the change in pH after adding a small volume of Ca(0H)2. Instrumentation: Automated pH and lime requirement measurements are done on a LabFit AS-3000 soil pH system modified with a burette pump to automatically add the Ca(0H)2. The lab has just acquired the Aquakem 200 spectrophotometer (distributed by EST Analytical) intended for measuring total P, NO3, NH4, SO4, and other ions. (Leticia Sonon reporting).

Penn State University: Soil sample volume was stable at around 40,000 last year. We increased our soil tests fees July 1, 2004 to $9.00 per sample. This was our first soil test fee increase in 15 years. In addition to the standard analysis of pH, acidity, P, K, Ca, Mg and estimated CEC, we now give results for Cu, S, and Zn with our standard package on agronomic crops. Changes in soil test procedures this past year include 1) switched from the SMP to the modified Mehlich buffer test (BaCl2 replaced with CaCl2) for lime requirement on July 1, 2004; 2) introduced the corn stalk nitrate test in the fall of 2004, 3) implemented a calcium carbonate equivalency test (CCE) for biosolids, manures and other waste materials; 4) now offer plant tissue analysis by both the dry ash procedure (our traditional technique) as well as a fast-throughput microwave digestion procedure (based on Paul Chu's method at A&L); 5) received approval from EPA and the PA Department of Environmental Protection for measuring N by combustion on sewage sludges and have switched from Kjeldahl analysis to total combustion on these as well as other waste samples. In addition, we are currently working on a Si analysis protocol for plants (NaOH autoclave digestion) and soils (acetic acid extraction) as well as protocol for testing Green Roof media. (Ann Wolf reporting).

University of Kentucky: Discussions are being held with Kentucky Department of Agriculture to improve the lime law in Kentucky. Wilbur Frye has accepted a position as head of the Office for Consumer and Environmental Protection in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. A fact sheet is available on the SERA6 web site summarizing comparisons between Mehlich3 and Mehlich1 soil extractions for P and K. The Princeton lab is ordering a Labfit instrument. The Lexington lab has received 4 new Fisher pH meters that have a new user interface similar to a PDA. A new buffer has been developed without hazardous chemicals that yields the same pH reading as the SMP buffer. The new buffer is anticipated to be used for routine testing in a couple months. (Frank Sikora reporting).

Agri Analysis: The lab is looking for a combustion analyzer. (Tim Hoerner reporting).

Brookside Lab: The lab had a record volume year. Changes/updates: purchased new GC for environmental lab; expanded organic extraction lab 2X; and built 40x60 building next to lab for storage (Mark Flock reporting)

Steve Heckendorn adjourned the meeting at approximately 11:00 am.