The International Information Center for Geotechnical Engineers

Thursday, 02 August 2018 01:00

New efficient laboratory test to determine soil productivity

New efficient laboratory test to determine soil productivity New efficient laboratory test to determine soil productivity.

Scientists at The Ohio State University and Cornell University have found a way to measure the health (productivity) of soils.

The health of soils is very important when it comes to growing crops. Nowadays, farmers use scientific methods to determine the shape of their field's ground. Laboratory tests can be conducted to find out the condition of the soil. The tests include measurements of the pH, organic matter and extractable phosphorus, base cations and micronutrients. Using fertilizers or growing cover crops to feed the soil is recommended if the tests show that the soil is not in good shape.

Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients when it comes to crop production. Until today, typical laboratory tests could not measure available nitrogen in the soil. Tests to measure it exist but they are time consuming, expensive and therefore inefficient. Consequently, farmers tend to use more of less nitrogen fertilizer than is actually needed which in not a good practice as:

  • Nitrogen fertilizer is one of the more expensive soil inputs
  • Nitrogen surplus can run off the land and cause problems for bodies of water downstream

Τhe research team from Ohio State and Cornell Universities have found a way to measure nitrogen in an easier, more efficient manner. They have shown that a test originally developed for extracting a particular protein in soil is actually a good test for a variety of proteins. Proteins are by far the largest pool of available organic nitrogen in soil. A good, quick test for protein in the soil could also be used as a test for available nitrogen. The procedure includes the measurement of a protein called glomalin. Glomalin is generally believed to be produced by a common soil microorganism that has a beneficial relationship with plant roots.

Α problem that arises is that the glomalin extraction method might actually extract proteins from other sources. Researchers did test that theory and found that proteins from all of the sources were extracted via this method. Therefore, they recommend adoption of new terms such as soil protein, rather than glomalin, to more accurately describe the proteins extracted through this method. More research on this issue would be productive.


Read 485 times Last modified on Thursday, 09 August 2018 15:58

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