Solum's No Wait Nitrate Testing
Wednesday, August 29th, 2012
In 2009, a trio of young physicists with an interest in agronomy started a company called Solum. Now, they believe their No Wait Nitrate onsite testing system will revolutionize the way farmers and ranchers find out how much nutrient is in their soil.
The company offers a traditional mail-in sample testing service in which the technicians do a multi-nutrient analysis out of a lab. (Solum is set to open a new lab in Ames, Iowa in two weeks.) But the company also offers a field deployed lab that’s gaining attention around the country.
“It allows a producer or a co-op or an agronomist to take a sample in the morning, run it through our No Wait Nitrate kit and he can dial in the exact amount of nitrate nitrogen available at that moment,” said Leon Zinck III, a field sales manager for Solum.
“The benefit to the producer is he gets the results immediately. He gets the results extremely accurately. He is not constrained by the weather or time in making a side-dress application of nitrogen to finish his crop out.”
The onsite testing is quick and, presumably, more accurate since the sample isn’t handled several times and the results are available at that moment – not days later when conditions may have changed. “He is not putting too much nitrogen out which is wasteful and contaminating to the environment and he’s not putting out too little which would limit his yield potential,” said Zinck.
In traditional nitrogen testing, a grower takes a sample, freezes the dirt and ships it in dry ice to a lab. There, a technician will do a cadmium reduction and a week later the results are back.
By experience and computer modeling, growers usually have some idea how much nutrient remains in their fields.
But modeling doesn’t always work in extreme weather conditions. Drought probably means that row crops in some regions aren’t absorbing as much nitrogen as they typically do, meaning growers may not need to apply as much fertilizer next year, Zinck said. Only a test can tell. Showing the actual nitrate levels in the soil also may help growers stay ahead of government regulations to protect water supply.
“You can go out and say, ‘I put this much nitrogen out because that’s what my crop requires and here is what was on the ground when I did that.’ It is a very good check and balance for proper nutrient management,” Zinck said.
To find out more about Solum, go to http://solum.ag/