Mid-Atlantic Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Work Group
Southern States Building, Richmond, VA 

February 21 - 22, 2006 

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 

The meeting was called to order by the chair, Steve Heckendorn. 

Introductions were made, and Phil Howard provided an update from Southern States.  He stated that they were pushing soil testing, and there was an increased activity in site specific farming.  He also reported that Southern States is on sound financial footing, and trends for buying fertilizer are holding constant. 

Frank Sikora gave a presentation "Buffers that Mimic the SMP and Adams-Evans Buffer for Determining Lime Requirement of Soil".  The purpose of the work was to develop new buffer solutions that would 1) eliminate hazardous constituents, 2) use the same correlation equations, and 3) provide the same buffer pH values.  MES and Imidazole were used to replace the hazardous chemicals in the SMP buffer, and MOPS and MES were used to replace p-nitrophenol in the Adams-Evans buffer.  The results showed a very good correlation between the pH values and the lime recommendations. 

After the break, David Kissel presented "Subsoil pH, Water Extraction, and its Relationship to Surface pH".  A trend between the subsoil pH and the height of cotton was reported.  Also, liming the surface will influence the subsoil pH.  In summary, cotton growth is limited by low pH.  Low surface pHs cause low subsoil pHs over many years, and there is a substantial spatial variation in the surface soil pHs in all fields.  

David also gave an update on the soil testing promotional video in which he, Paul Vendrell, and Leticia Sonon are working.  They are working on the script for the video which will be about 15 minutes long.  The video would allow for each lab to personalize.  The cost will be around $30,000 and they plan to bring it to the SERA-6 meeting in June and possibly work with other labs at that time. 

Steve led a group discussion regarding an ICP instrumentation review and summary. 

Lunch - sponsored by Southern States. 

The ICP discussion resumed.  Software and hardware issues were brought up.  Bob Dussich spoke about new instrumentation from Spectro. 

Frank gave a presentation "Evaluating Time Issues with a Quad-Head Labfit Instrument for Automated pH and Buffer pH Measurements of Soil".  The best experimental time parameters were determined to be; sample delay - 5 s, number reads - 7, pH stability - 0.01, max sample time - 10 s.  The routine method uses; sample delay - 5 s, number reads - 10, pH stability - 0.02, max sample time - 60 s.  

Bob Isaac presented new instrumentation from Labfit.  The TGA-4000 Robotic Thermogravimetric Analyser for LOI and the AS-3000 Quad pH analyzer were discussed. 

Keith Hensley from Lignin presented "Custom Tailored Automation for Soil Test Labs" including a new soil grinder and soil dispenser, flow injection, automated scooper, and LOI instrumentation. 

The ICP discussion continued with Frank reporting on the Varian and Karen reporting on the Thermo Intrepid. 

A Virtual Tour of the University of Georgia Soil, Plant, and Water Lab was given by Leticia Sonon.   

The Social and Dinner were sponsored by Spectro, Labfit, and Lignin. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 

Karen Gartley presented "Phosphorus Saturation Ratio for Delaware Soils".  High Phosphorus soils are a concern in Delaware.  They are looking into managing high P soils by 1) eliminating P application, 2) relocating manure, and 3) management practices.  The M3-PSR (phosphorus saturation ratio) was developed to predict the high and very high risk soils.  New management guidelines were developed. 

Karen gave a NAPT update. 

Future plans for the Mid-Atlantic Workgroup:
            Frank will lead in a pH questionnaire.
            Need to balance out program with more on recommendations. 

State Reports: 

Virginia:  Steve Heckendorn reported turnover in one full-time extension lab tech position.  Dr. Greg Mullins, the faculty member over the lab, left to be a department head at New Mexico State University.  Department is interviewing next month to refill his position.  Bought a new Spectro CirOS VISION ICP.  Last September started reporting lime recommendations based on the Mehlich buffer.  Construction in, above, and on three sides of lab has made life difficult the past few years, and extremely difficult from this past May to January.  Received about 45,000 soil samples for 2005. 

Brookside Laboratory, Inc.:  Third record year in a row in volume for 2005.  Purchased a custom built OM-LOI weigher from Keith Hensley.  Added another CEM microwave to the plant laboratory. 

North Carolina:  David Hardy reported the Soil Testing Section analyzed 313,648 soil samples and supplied lime and fertilizer recommendations through 37,000 reports, in what turned out to be the second highest sample volume in the state's 65-year history of soil testing. Sample volume was up 11.5% over FY2004.  Turn-around time never exceeded six weeks and, for much of the peak testing period, samples were processed in about four weeks.  The laboratory continued to pursue improvements in functionality and efficiency of equipment and lab space. An automated humic matter station was made fully operational; bulk chemical tanks for mixing and storage of large volumes of solutions were purchased; three reciprocating shakers for soil extraction were purchased; and two additional pH stations were made operational. Additionally, the section purchased an automated segmented flow analyzer (Skalar SAN System) that enables the lab to analyze nitrate, phosphate and sulfate. This addition facilitates timelier nitrate analysis and makes it possible to carry out special analyses for research purposes. A new conductivity meter was also purchased (Thermo Orion 4 Star).  For 2006, the lab is working to acquire a new soil dryer.  Research interests:  lower soil pH with sulfur applications; target pH for Leyland Cypress; Zn/Cu toxicity in fescue / row crops; refinement of grape recommendations; refinement of turf production recommendations; S validation for corn / small grain.  Dr. Weimin Ye assumed leadership of the Nematode Assay Section in October following the retirement of Dr. Jack Imbriani.  

Brenda Cleveland reported that the Plant, Waste, and Solution Section analyzed 33,781 samples in FY2005 compared to 37,313 sample in FY2004. The drop in samples was largely attributed to fewer plant samples, both internal samples (our own field tests) and cotton samples.  Plant: In FY2005, the lab analyzed 12,189 plant tissue samples. This was a 20% decrease from the 15,201 plant samples analyzed in FY2004.  Waste: In FY2005, the lab analyzed 19,207 waste samples. This was a minor decrease (4%) compared to the 20,023 samples analyzed in FY2004. Anaerobic swine lagoon liquid was the most frequently analyzed waste type as has been the case for several years.  Solution: In FY2005, 2,385 solution samples were analyzed, a 14% increase compared to 2,089 solution samples in FY2004.  Updates and Changes: In December 2004, Dr. Colleen Hudak-Wise became the new Assistant Director and Plant, Waste, and Solution Section Chief; she was promoted to Interim Director in February 2005 then Director in June 2005. The position vacated was reclassified as PWS Section Chief (no assistant director responsibilities) and the position remained vacant until late December 2005 when Brenda R. Cleveland was selected to fill the position. The PWS Agronomist I position has been vacant since Shaun Casteel returned to NCSU to complete a Ph.D. program. The lab has one vacant chemical technician III position.  In FY2005, two new hoods were installed in the digestion room in addition to the three new hoods installed the previous year. A conductivity meter for soluble salts, a forced air oven for sample drying, a gas controller for the nitrogen analyzer and a muffle furnace were purchased. The lab is in the process of purchasing three self-contained hoods to reduce dust and odors in the grinding room. 

Kentucky:  Frank Sikora reported the Labfit in use with the new Sikora buffer solution.  Sample numbers are steady. 

South Carolina:  Kathy Moore reported the development of a new pH buffer to replace the Adams-Evans buffer in order to eliminate p-nitrophenol.  Purchased a new Dual pH Analyser with a buffer syringe pump.  Installed new Spectro CIROS VISION in June of 2005.  Increased fees in July of 2005.  Soil fee was increased from $5.00 - $6.00.  Still working on the development of the soil sample mailer to put into SC stores hopefully this spring. 

Penn State:  Ann Wolf reported on the implementation of the certification program.  Soil sample volume around 40,000.  Introduced a new green roof testing program at the laboratory at the request of Penn State's Center for Green Roof research since no laboratory in the U.S. offers standardized methods for this media.  Test procedures implemented are those recommended and followed in Europe.  Introduction of Si tests for soils and plants.  Plan to purchase a new ICP in the next 6 months to replace one of aging (15 years old) Thermo 61 E ICPs.
            Doug Beegle reported on manure management in no-till.  Looking at several low disturbance manure injection options.  This is a major project with ARS to look at N volatilization, N leaching, P runoff, P erosion, soil quality and crop performance.  Have a small scale project working on gaining more calibration data for an alternative chlorophyll meter test for corn N management.  Evaluating corn N recommendations. 

A&L:  Paul Chu took over ownership of A&L.  New TKN distillation unit.  Also getting refurbished ICP. 

Agri Analysis:  Tim Hoerner reported soil totals up from last year.   

Spectrum Analytic:  Vernon Pabst reported moving to the Sikora buffer.  Reports are now on web site.  Steady volume of samples (increase in turf).   

Delaware:  Karen Gartley talked about new ICP.  Sample volume up (routine and research).  Looking into updating recommendations. 

Final meeting plans for next year:
            Virtual lab tour - Steve Heckendorn
            New Chair - Karen Gartley
            Dates - February 20 - 21, 2007
            Back up dates - April 24 - 25, 2007
            Southern State - sponsor 

Meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m.