Re-inventing soil testing


It is not so much a case of re-inventing soil testing as evolving newer, and
better, soil testing methods. Resin-based tests could well be the way of the
future. We should expect some changes as we move into the 21st century and
we might expect to do some things better and with more precision.
Incidentally resin-based procedures have been with us for 40 years or more
(I remember using a resin-extractable P test in my Masterate research in the
early '60s, so they're not new). What is different now is the method of
presenting the resins (encapsulated, or on membrane strips) and the use of
mixed cation and anion exchangers for multinutrient extraction. Whilst of
course most of us realize and accept the limitations of any soil test, few
would deny their power and when used properly they are an invaluable part of
any comprehensive testing program.

But back to the issue of Earl Skogley and his attempt to introduce a
much-needed new method to our soil fertility arsenal. I recently had the
chance to visit with Earl and to discuss briefly some of his ideas and the
background to the current argument. What disappointed me was the apparent
indifference (or should I say near-hostility) that others often show towards
his testing method. From what I could determine the problem was not so much
scientific, as politic. Perhaps this is the real answer. 

Interestingly a similar situation also exists in New Zealand; and again it
is a political issue. It seems that it is more important which "camp" that
the test originates from than whether or not it has any intrinsic merit. In
NZ we know and expect this sort of mentality, but in the US I had hoped it
might be different. Oh well....

Perhaps Earl should be asked for a comment. But for my money resins show
promise as a multinutrient soil test and should be researched further to see
if the benefits flow through to better field practices. Interesting this
parochialism, isn't it?


Max Turner