The 14-page ATTRA's resource list titled "Alternative Soil Testing
Laboratories" has just been revised (December 1999) and now available
in print. The updated web version will be on-line in January.
I think it goes a long way to addressing this whole issue.
There are plenty of soil labs -- using a variety of approaches and
philosophies -- that can provide soil-test specific information to
help farmers improve soil health and crop nutritional quality.
Monitoring the crop in the field with on-site instruments, and
following that with agronomic and horticultural adjustments to
improve the nutritional and energetic status of the crop is the
other part of the equation.
Steve Groff mentioned vitamins.
In the list of Soil Test Supplies, Instruments, and Equipment section
below -- lifted from Alternative Soil Testing Laboratories -- see the
Vitamin C test strip from EM Science. Test strips are also available
for nitrates. These can be done as on-site tests at the farm, at the
farmstand, or at the farmers market.
One of the better on-site tests you can perform as an indicator
of taste is degrees Brix, using a refractometer. The refractometer
is an precision optical instrument used in the food industry.
The higher the Brix, the greater the soluble solids and sugars
present in the sap of fruits and vegetables.
On one of the California farms, they raised Brix readings on Japanese
melons from 8 to 16. This is a dramatic taste improvement. This was
done with supplemental foliar feeding (Brix Mix from Peaceful Valley
Supply) in addition to soil amendments.
In Wisconsin, the ginseng growers initiated a quality improvement
program to increase active herbal ingredients. This was done through
soil testing, soil fertilizer programming, and foliar feeding.
Soil Test Supplies - Instruments - Equipment
100 Countryside Drive
PO Box 270
Belleville, WI 53508
[Gempler's Master Catalog]
Gempler's IPM Almanac]
Gempler's carries a full line of soil testing equipment and IPM
supplies, including pH meters, Cardy meters, electrical conductivity
meters, soil test kits, and soil probes. Of special interest is the
Professional Soil Quality Test Kit ($485), which provides indicators
of biological, physical, and chemical soil conditions. This is the
test kit promoted by USDA-NRCS, also known as the USDA Soil Health
Test Kit. It was developed in the early 1990's by Dr. John Doran, a
USDA soil scientist, in collaboration with the Rodale Institute in
Pennsylvania. The test kit is accompanied the USDA Soil Management
Manual (Item No. RGM97) which describes testing procedures for: pH,
nitrates, salinity (EC), soil compaction, soil moisture, soil
biological activity (respiration), soil texture, water infiltration,
bulk density, earthworms, and waster quality. The manual sells
individually for $9.95.
P.O. Box 389
Loveland, CO 80539-0389
Hach Co. manufacturers a number of portable soil and water quality
monitoring instruments: pH meters, electrical conductivity, percent
base saturation, colorimeter meter.
P.O. Box 329
Chestertown, MD 21620
The LaMotte STH Soil Test Kit features the Morgan Universal Soil
Extraction Solution , the solution used in the Reams Test, to
measure plant available nutrients. The Kit includes a colorimetric
Humus Screening Test. LaMotte carries a complete line of soil &
water quality monitoring instruments.
Pike Lab Supplies
RR 2, Box 710
Strong, ME 04983
Contact: Bob Pike
Extensive selection of on-farm testing supplies: refractometers,
paramagnetic soil meter, electrical conductivity, soil test kits,
compost test kits, Cardy meters. Pike Lab Supplies also carries a
wide selection of books on eco-farming.
Spectrum Technologies, Inc.
23839 W. Andrew Rd.
Plainfield Illinois 60544
Spectrum Technologies manufacturers a number of portable soil and
water quality monitoring instruments: pH, electrical conductivity,
nutrient test strips, Cardy meters, colorimeter meter.
Regional and National Distributors
EM Science manufacturers test strips for pH, nitrates, nitrites,
ammonia, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamin C. The reflectoquant
meter is used in combination with test strips for rapid and accurate
determination of results.
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