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Home > Master Publication List > Alternative Soil Testing Laboratories

Alternative Soil Testing Laboratories


By Steve Diver
© NCAT October 2002
IP234


Table of Contents

Introduction

The aim of this resource list is to provide a range of soil testing labs and supplies that support the special analytical needs of farmers using organic or sustainable production methods. Fundamentally, these farmers are looking for more than just N-P-K-Lime fertilizer recommendations.

Most land-grant universities offer free or low-cost soil testing services to farmers, gardeners, and landowners. The benefit of in-state analysis is that fertilizer recommendations are calibrated to soils in the region. These calibrations and associated fertilizer recommendations have been determined through decades of field trials at agricultural experiment stations.

The standard soil test—readily available through both land-grant university and commercial labs—provides data on soil nutrient levels (N, P, K, Ca, Mg) and a few soil chemical characteristics (pH and CEC). These parameters form the basis of fertilizer and liming recommendations. However, translating the results of a standard soil test into useful organic fertilizer recommendations is not a simple matter. Most university soil testing labs don't provide practical fertilizer recommendations suited to commercial organic farming.

The labs in this list are organized in two broad categories:

  1. those that emphasize a biological assessment, and
  2. those that emphasize mineral content and fertilizer recommendations

The first category focuses on tests for biological parameters and associated indicators such as soil organic matter and microbial activity. Farmers using organic production methods employ a range of biological farming practices to achieve a healthy, productive soil—e.g., crop rotations, cover crops and green manures, composts, minimally processed rock minerals, and in some instances, microbial inoculants. Accordingly, they need data that indicate soil biological health, not just mineral composition. They also need to understand how they can adjust agronomic practices to improve organic matter, soil tilth, microbial diversity, and nutrient mineralization and how this will affect their farm production.

The second category emphasizes mineral availability and mineral balances in the soil. The labs listed in this category provide organic fertilizer recommendations, conduct modified lab tests considered special or unique, or provide recommendations based on alternative fertility concepts developed by agricultural advisors like William Albrecht, Carey Reams, Rudy Ozolins, and Arden Andersen.

Most of these labs provide interpretation of results and make fertilizer and soil management recommendations.

Do-it-yourself soil testing supplies are included in this resource list because on-farm soil testing is becoming more popular. Key references on soil testing and soil quality are included to support further awareness and education about standard as well as alternative methods of soil analysis. Literature on Drs. William Albrecht, Carey Reams, Rudy Ozylins, and Phillip Callahan, and on paramagnetism and rock dusts, is provided because these people and practices are commonly featured in the alternative agricultural literature with regard to soil fertility practices. Since many of the books listed in this latter category have limited distribution, selected publishers have also been noted.

Note to Certified Organic Farmers:

Several of the labs that focus on mineral analysis consult with large-scale grain farmers and recommend commercial fertilizers on a regular basis—the difference being that such fertilizers are used in the context of an alternative fertility program, which may include emphasis on base saturation, nutrient balancing, microbial inoculants, humates, enzymes, and foliar feeding. However, most of these labs will adjust fertilizer recommendations to fit certified organic standards on request.

Several critera were used to identify laboratories offering alternative soil testing services of interest to farmers implementing organic and sustainable practices.

Criteria for Labs Specializing in Organic Matter, Humus, Compost, Microbial Analysis:

  • Tests that focus on biological parameters such as soil humus, organic matter, compost, or microbial analysis. Monitoring for non-nutritive parameters is a recent development in agriculture. Such tests were developed in response to increased awareness and attention to total soil health versus mineral analysis alone.

Criteria for Labs Specializing in Mineral Analysis and Fertilizer Recommendations:

  • Labs and crop advisors that are featured in alternative farming magazines or seminars.
  • Modified lab procedures, unique extract solutions, and specialized lab techniques—as explained in seminars, publications, or communicated by phone or in person.
  • Labs or crop advisors connected to a historical or living figure recognized as a contributor to alternative soil testing methods or theories.
  • Labs offering organic fertilizer recommendations.

Qualified labs and suppliers not included in the current list can contact ATTRA with complete details for future updates:

Phone: 800-346-9140

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Emphasis on Humus, Organic Matter, Compost, Microbial Analysis

ABC ORGANICS Crop Research Foundation
P.O. Box 967
Camarillo, CA 93011
805-675-8747
Contact: Johnny Agulia
admin@abcorganics.com

ABC ORGANICS offers soil, compost, and manure tests, as well as leaf analysis, with a focus on humus, soil foodweb evaluation, and microbial diversity.

Agri-Energy Resources
21417 1950E St.
Princeton, IL 61356
815-872-1190
815-872-1928 Fax
aer@starband.net
www.agrienergy.net

Agri-Energy Resources offers a series of biologically oriented tests: soil microbial analysis, compost analysis, water stable soil aggregate analysis, and a plant grow-out bioassay test.

BBC Laboratories, Inc.
1217 North Stadem Dr.
Tempe, AZ 85281
480-967-5931
480-967-5036 Fax
Contact: Vicki Bess
info@bbclabs.com
www.ecoberm.com/testBBC.htm

BBC Labs offers microbial analysis of soils, composts, compost teas, and biological products. Assays performed:

  1. The Functional Group Enumeration Test classifies organisms into six categories: aerobic heterotrophs; facultative anaerobes; yeasts & molds; actinomycetes; pseudomonads; and nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
  2. The Diversity Analysis Test looks at how many different kinds of organisms exist within each functional group.

Midwest Bio-systems
28933 35-E Street
Tampico, IL 61283
800-689-0714
815-438-7028 Fax
mbs@midwestbiosystems.com
www.midwestbiosystems.com

Midwest Bio-Systems (MBS) provides soil and compost analysis combined with practical field recommendations. MBS specializes in compost feedstock analysis and windrow management emphasizing the controlled microbial composting method from Austria. Compost reports include percent material of pile volume, material volume in cubic yards, material densisty (lbs/cubic yard), weight of materials, structure rating, moisture content, percent nitrogen, and C:N ratio. Seminars offered several times a year.

Soil Control Lab, Inc.
42 Hangar Way
Watsonville, CA 95076
831-724-5422
831-724-3188 Fax
Contact: Frank Shields
frank@compostlab.com

Specialists in compost analysis: compost feedstocks, compost recipes, compost quality tests, agricultural uses, and toxicity and contaminants analysis.

Soil Foodweb, Inc.
1750 SW 3rd St., Suite K
Corvallis, OR 97330-1796
541-752-5066
541-752-5142 Fax
Contact: Elaine Ingham
info@soilfoodweb.com
www.rodaleinstitute.org

Soil Foodweb, Inc., founded by Dr. Elaine Ingham, provides microbial analysis for soils, composts, and compost teas. A leaf assay is available to verify the efficacy of compost teas. Some of the parameters measured include: total & active bacterial and fungal biomass; numbers for each group of protozoa; nematode numbers and community structure; and VAM mycorrhizal colonization. The Soil Foodweb website contains a nice collection of articles, photos, and audio recordings on soil biology. Soil foodweb seminars are offered several times a year.

Soil and Plant Lab
1101 S. Winchester Blvd., Suite G-173
San Jose, CA 95128
408-727-0330
408-727-5125 Fax
splab7@earthlink.net
www.soilandplantlaboratory.com

Compost analysis: particle size, available nutrients, organic content, estimated C/N ratio, bulk density, pH, salinity, sodium, moisture content, bioassay growth trials with radish and rye grass. Four locations in California, Washington, and Oregon.

University of Massachusetts Soil Testing Lab
West Experiment Station
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003-8021
413-545-2311
soiltest@umext.umass.edu
www.umass.edu/plsoils/soiltest/

Compost analysis: moisture content, bulk density, pH, soluble salts, available plant nutrients, extractable heavy metals, total nitrogen, organic matter, C/N ratio.

Wallace Laboratories
365 Coral Circle
El Segundo, CA 90245
310-615-0116
310-640-6863 Fax
Contact: Garn Wallace
contact@wlabs.net
www.bettersoils.com

Compost analysis: chemical and physical parameters, macro and micro nutrients, bulk density, C/N, salinity, etc. Noteworthy publications from Wallace Laboratories include: Soil Conditioner and Amendment Technologies, Volume I ($45) and Volume II ($65).

Woods End Research Laboratory
P.O. Box 297
Mt. Vernon, ME 04352
207-293-2457
207-293-2488 Fax
Contact: Dr. William Brinton
info@woodsend.org
www.woodsend.org

Woods End provides a series of soil quality and compost tests, including the SolvitaŽ Compost Maturity and SolvitaŽ Soil Life test kits. The four components of their soil test are: Standard Soil Nutrient Audit; Biological and Textural Tests; Skilled Fertilizer Assessment; and Optional Nutrient Budgeting. Woods End publishes noteworthy manuals on compost, soil organic matter, and green manures; some items are available on their website and others are for sale. A Basic Guide for Interpreting Soil Tests is a 5-page leaflet (see website) explaining soil anaylsis and interpretation. Awarded as the "Most Meaningful Soil Test" by IFOAM in 1980.

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Emphasis on Mineral Analysis and Fertilizer Recommendations

ABC ORGANICS Crop Research Foundation
P.O. Box 967
Camarillo, CA 93011
805-675-8747
Contact: Johnny Agulia
admin@abcorganics.com

ABC ORGANICS provides several different quantitative soil tests that determine the nutritional status of soils. Base saturation/CEC soil test, organic matter, and nutrient analysis; organic fertilizer recommendations.

Ag Resource Consulting, Inc.
P.O. Box 667 / 131 5th Street
Albany, MN 56307
320-845-6321
320-845-6320 Fax
Contact: Glen Borgerding
glenbarc@albanytel.com

Base saturation/CEC soil test, organic matter, nutrient analysis, organic fertilizer recommendations, manure testing, and nutrient management plans.

Agri-Energy Resources
21417 1950E St.
Princeton, IL 61356
815-872-1190
815-872-1928 Fax
aer@starband.net
www.agrienergy.net

Complete soil test, Base saturation/CEC, LaMotte extract method. Fertilizer recommendations based on ideas from Albrecht, Reams, and the late founder of Agri-Energy Resources, Dave Larson. Interpreting Your Soil Test is a 4-page leaflet explaining the Agri-Energy Resources soil analysis report.

Albion Laboratories, Inc.
101 N. Main Street
Clearfield, UT 84015
800-453-2406
801-773-4631
801-773-4633 Fax
Contact: Kevin Dickinson
plantnutrition@AblionMinerals.com
www.AlbionMinerals.com

Base saturation/CEC soil test, organic matter, nutrient analysis, organic fertilizer recommendations. Field agronomists work individually with growers to design soil management programs.

A&L Analytical Laboratories
2790 Whitten Road
Memphis, TN 38133
800-264-4522
901-213-2400
901-243-2440 Fax
www.al-labs.com

Base saturation/CEC soil test, organic matter, nutrient analysis. Microbial analysis offered as an option. Organic fertilizer recommendations available on request. Six locations in the United States (TN, IN, VA, TX, CA, OR, FL, IA) . The A&L Agronomy Handbook ($6.00) is a noteworthy 132-page soil and plant analysis manual.

Bio-Systems
2724 Lamotte Street
Marlette, MI 48453
517-635-2864
517-635-3888
Contact: Joe Scrimger
bio-systems@centurytel.net

Soil tests include base saturation/CEC as well as the LaMotte extract method. Fertilizer recommendations based on ideas from Albrecht, Reams, and Joe Scrimger.

Brookside Analytical Laboratories
308 South Main Street
New Knoxville, OH 45871
419-753-2448
419-753-2949 Fax
Contact: Mark Flock
info@blinc.com
www.blinc.com

Base saturation/CEC soil test, organic matter, and nutrient analysis. Brookside conducts soil tests on behalf of its network of crop advisors and agronomists who work directly with farmers, perform soil tests, and design soil management programs. Soil test reports follow the style developed by Dr. William Albrecht. Contact Brookside for a list of crop advisors in your region.

Cook's Consulting
RD 2, Box 13
Lowville, NY 13367
315-376-3002
Contact: Peg Cook
pegcook@cooksagconsulting.com
www.lcida.org/cooks.html

Base saturation/CEC soil test, organic matter, and nutrient analysis using the LaMotte photometric system. Noteworthy publications include "Common Sense" Crop Production and "Common Sense" Market Farm Production, $25 each.

Crop Services International Inc.
1718 Madison S.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49507-2518
616-246-7933
616-246-6039 Fax
Contact: Dr. Phil Wheeler
drdirt@cropservicesintl.com
www.cropservicesintl.com

Soil tests include LaMotte, CEC, Humus, paramagnetism, and scanner (radionics). Fertilizer recommendations based on ideas from Albrecht, Reams, Callahan, and Phil Wheeler.

International Ag Labs, Inc.
P.O. Box 788
Fairmont, MN 56031
507-235-6909
507-235-9155 Fax
Contact: Dr. Dan Skow, Wendell Owens
ilab@rconnect.com
www.aglabs.com

Soil tests include the LaMotte extract for nutrient analysis, humus, and formazon dehydrogenase (biological activity). Fertilizer recommendations based on ideas from Reams and Dan Skow. Seminars offered on Reams Biological Theory of Ionization. Soil Testing for Biological Agriculture is an 18-page booklet on their soil test report and fertilizer recommendation guidelines.

K-Ag Laboratories International, Inc.
2323 Jackson St.
Oshkosh, WI 54901
920-426-0002
920-426-2664 Fax
Contact: Dr. Akhtar Khwaja
info@kaglab.com
www.kaglab.com

K-Ag Lab conducts a range of soil tests, provides organic farming recommendations, and works with specialty crops such as blueberries, cranberries, ginseng, vegetables, herbs, and black walnuts.

Kinsey's Agricultural Services
297 County Highway 357
Charleston, MO 63834
573-683-3880
573-683-6227 Fax
Contact: Neal Kinsey
neal@kinseyag.com
www.kinseyag.com

Base saturation/CEC soil test, organic matter, and nutrient analysis. Fertilizer recommendations based on ideas from Albrecht and Neal Kinsey.

Midwest Laboratories
13611 B. Street
Omaha, NE 68144
402-334-7770
402-334-9121 Fax
www.midwestlabs.com

Soil test provides nutrient analysis, percent organic matter, and base saturation/CEC numbers, but fertilizer guidelines are standard pounds of nutrients required per acre. The website provides helpful information leaflets on soil, water, and environmental topics (see Midwest Memos).

Midwestern Bio-Ag
10851 Hwy ID, Box 160
Blue Mounds, WI 53517
800-327-6012
608-437-4994
608-437-4441 Fax
Contact: Gary Zimmer
bioag@mhtc.net
www.midwesternbioag.com

Base saturation/CEC soil test, organic matter, and nutrient analysis. Fertilizer recommendations based on ideas from Albrecht and Gary Zimmer. Midwestern Bio-Ag publishes a number of informative booklets, books, audio tapes, and videos. The Soil Nutrition Handbook is a 130-page training manual with guidelines for understanding soils, soil reports, and fertilizer guidelines for biological farming.

Organic Food Matters
741 S. Yates Road
Memphis, TN 38120-2820
901-684-1046
901-684-1949 Fax
Contact: Jeptha Gates

Soil tests based on the Lamotte method. Fertilizer recommendations based on ideas from Reams, Andersen, and Jeptha Gates.

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
P.O. Box 2209
Grass Valley, CA 95945
888-784-1722
916-272-4769
916-272-4794 Fax
www.groworganic.com

The Basic Soil Test includes: organic matter, estimated biologically released nitrogen, nitrate nitrogen, available and reserve phosphorus, exchangeable potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium, soil pH, hydrogen, CEC, base saturation, sulfur, zinc, free lime, and soluble salts. Know Your Soil: A Handbook for Understanding Your Soil Test Report ($20) is a 15-page booklet by Amigo Bob Cantisano on soil test interpretation combined with organic soil management guidelines.

Terra Labs, Inc.
6073 State Route 219
Celina, OH 45822
419-268-2294
Contact: Keldon Colvin
terralab@bright.net

Base saturation/CEC soil test, organic matter, and nutrient analysis advocated by Dr. Rudy Ozolins. Fertilizer recommendations based on ideas from Albrecht and Ozolins.

Texas Plant & Soil Lab, Inc.
5115 W. Monte Cristo
Edinburg, TX 78539
956-383-0739
956-383-0730 Fax
Contact: Esper K. Chandler
info@txplant-soillab.com
www.txplant-soillab.com

TPSL uses carbon dioxide as part of its natural soil test method to extract soil nutrients; it mimics natural conditions in soils to determine what would be available to plant roots. Fertilizer recommendations based on ideas from Albrecht and Esper K. Chandler. Commonly used by Texas organic growers.

Timberleaf Soil Testing
39648 Old Spring Road
Murrieta, CA 92563
951-677-7510
Contact: Bob or Valerie Russo
www.timberleafsoiltesting.com

The Timberleaf soil test was developed especially for market gardeners who practice the biointensive approach made popular by John Jeavons, author of How to Grow More Vegetables... The Basic Soil Test includes base saturation/CEC, estimated nitrogen release, available nutrients, pH, and soluble salts. Optional tests exist for organic matter, trace minerals, and composts/greenhouse media. Timberleaf provides a detailed soil test report that contains soil test report data as well as explanations and recommendations for organic fertilization.

University of Maine Soil Testing Service
5722 Deering Hall
Orono, ME 04469-5722
207-581-2945
207-581-2934 Fax
http://anlab.umesci.maine.edu

Base saturation/CEC soil test, organic matter, and nutrient analysis. Compost analysis on request. Organic fertilizer recommendations available on request. Commonly used by Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners (MOFGA). Publications on website: Soil Testing Handbook for Professionals in Agriculture and Commercial Organic Nutrient Recommendations

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Soil Testing Supplies—Instruments—Equipment

Gempler's
1125 Deming Way
Madison, WI 53717
800-382-8473
608-662-3301
Gempler's Master Catalogwww.gemplers.com
Gempler's IPM Almanacwww.gemplers.com/tech

Gempler's carries a full line of soil testing equipment and IPM supplies, including pH meters, nitrate test kits, electrical conductivity meters, soil test kits, and soil probes. Of special interest is the Professional Soil Quality Test Kit(Item No. RGM250), 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 1990s by Dr. John Doran, a USDA soil scientist, in collaboration with the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania. The test kit is accompanied by the USDA Soil Management Manual (Item No. RGM97, sold individually) 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 water quality.

Hach Co.
P.O. Box 389
Loveland, CO 80539
800-227-4224
970-669-3050
970-669-2932 Fax
orders@hach.com

Hach Co. manufactures a number of portable soil and water quality monitoring instruments and meters: pH, electrical conductivity, percent base saturation, colorimetry.

LaMotte Co.
P.O. Box 329
Chestertown, MD 21620
800-344-3100
410-778-3100
410-778-6394 Fax
tech@lamotte.com
www.lamotte.com

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 colori-metric Humus Screening Test. LaMotte carries a complete line of soil and water quality monitoring instruments.

Pike Agri-Lab Supplies
154 Claybrook Rd.
P.O. Box 67
Jay, ME 04239
866-745-3247 Toll-Free
207-897-9267
207-897-9268 Fax
Contact: Bob Pike
info@pikeagri.com
www.pikeagri.com

Extensive selection of on-farm testing supplies: refractometers, paramagnetic soil meter, electrical conductivity, penetrometer, pH, nitrate, potassium, oxidation reduction potential, soil test kits, compost test kits. Pike Lab Supplies also carries a number of hard-to-find books on eco-farming. Website includes the Plant Tissue Test Intructions leaflet that describes how to use pH, refractometer, and electrical conductivity meter readings to monitor crop health from an eco-farming perspective.

Spectrum Technologies, Inc.
23839 W. Andrew Rd.
Plainfield, IL 60544
800-248-8873
815-436-4440
815-436-4460 Fax
info@specmeters
www.specmeters.com

Spectrum Technologies manufactures a number of portable soil and water quality monitoring instruments: pH, electrical conductivity, nutrient test strips, Cardy ion meters, soil nitrate quick test, penetrometer.

EM Science
480 South Democrat Road
Gibbstown, NJ 08027
800-222-0342
856-423-6300
856-423-4389 Fax
www.emdchemicals.com/corporate/emd_corporate.asp

EM Science manufactures test strips for pH, nitrates, nitrites, ammonia, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamin C. The Reflectoquant Ion Test Meter is used in combination with test strips for rapid and accurate determination of results.

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Publications from ATTRA: Soil Fertility, Compost, Alternative Farming Systems

The following publications from ATTRA are listed as background reading on sustainable soil management and alternative farming systems.

Sustainable Soil Management
Sources of Organic Fertilizers & Amendments
Alternative Soil Amendments
Overview of Cover Crops and Green Manures
Manures for Organic Crop Production
Biodynamic Farming & Compost Preparation
Notes on Compost Teas
Worms for Composting (Vermicomposting)
Nutrient Cycling in Pastures
Assessing the Pasture Soil Resource

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References on Soil Testing and Soil Quality

Soil and Plant Analysis Laboratory Registry for the United States and Canada, Second Edition (1999) is a directory of soil labs compiled by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Extension Service, and Council on Soil Testing and Plant Analysis. The directory lists university and private labs that perform soil, plant, and water analysis. The individual listings describe analytical procedures available. Lists for $52 through:

CRC Press LLC
2000 NW Corporate Blvd
Boca Raton, FL 33431
800-272-7737
561-994-0555
561-989-9732 Fax
orders@crcpress.com
www.crcpress.com

Defining Soil Quality for a Sustainable Environment (1994), SSSA Special Publication No. 35, is the proceedings of a symposium sponsored by Soil Science Society of America. It provides a nice summary of definitions and descriptive aspects of soil quality; it describes how soil quality is linked to sustainable soil management practices; and it reviews physical, chemical, microbial, faunal, enzymatic, and organic matter indicators of soil quality. Available for $35 through:

American Society of Agronomy, SSSA, CSSA
Attn: Book Order Department
677 South Segoe Rd.
Madison, WI 53711
608-273-8080
608-273-2021 Fax
www.agronomy.org

Methods for Assessing Soil Quality (1996), SSSA Special Publication No. 49, builds on two previous publications, Defining Soil Quality for a Sustainable Environment (SSSA Special Publication No. 35) and Soil Health and Sustainability (Advances in Agronomy, Vol. 56). It reviews linkages between soil quality and plant, animal, and human health; summarizes minimum indicators of soil quality; provides examples of farmer-friendly scorecards, information leaflets, and on-farm assessment methods; and provides detailed methods and procedures for measuring soil quality parameters. Available for $36 through ASA:

See address above.

Soil Quality Test Kit Guide (1998) is an 82-page manual from the USDA Soil Quality Institute. This is the NRCS manual that describes how to conduct the tests outlined in the soil quality test kit developed by Dr. John Doran. Section I provides a list of supplies and instructions for conducting a number of on-farm tests to assess soil quality. Section II provides background and interpretive information for each test. While the manual is free, the actual instruments and supplies to conduct these tests must be purchased. Individual components can be purchased from suppliers, though for convenience Gempler's (see address above) carries a complete set of supplies in the Professional Soil Quality Test Kit. Printed copies of the Soil Quality Test Kit Guide are available from Gempler's, or free as a web download at:

Soil Quality Test Kit
http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/assessment/test_kit.html

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References on Novel Testing Methods

Chromatography Applied to Quality Testing (1984 edition), by Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, provides access to a novel testing method used in biodynamic agriculture. Pfeiffer made extensive use of the chroma test in his research at the Pfeiffer Foundation in Spring Valley, New York. This book contains color plates and descriptive entries for chroma tests performed on different samples of soil, compost, and grain. A 44-page book that lists for $8 through:

Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, Inc.
Building 1002B, Thoreau Center
The Presidio
P.O. Box 29135
San Francisco, CA 94129-0135
415-561-7797
415-561-7796 Fax
biodynamic@aol.com
www.biodynamics.com

Sensitive Crystallization: A Demonstration of Formative Forces in the Blood (1975 edition), by Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, describes a second novel method used in biodynamic agriculture. Pfeiffer developed the sensitive crystallization technique in the early 1930s. In 1939 he was awarded an honorary M.D. from Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia in recognition of his research on the early diagnosis of cancer using this method. The technique can also be used in the analysis of food and fodder. A 59-page book that lists for $16 from Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association:

See address above.

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References on Sustainable Soil Fertility

Building Soils for Better Crops, 2nd Edition (2000) by Fred Magdoff and Harold van Es, soil scientists at University of Vermont and Cornell University, is a highly practical 230-page guide to ecological soil management. This is the best all-round manual from the land-grant agricultural colleges on building and maintaining a healthy, productive soil. Topics addressed: organic matter, soil biology, physical properties of soil, animal manures, cover crops, crop rotations, making and using composts, reducing compaction, appropriate tillage systems, nutrient management, and soil tests and fertilizers. It also feature profiles of farmers implementing ecological soil management practices, and is accompanied by plenty of helpful illustrations and tables. Handbook No. 4 in the Sustainable Agriculture Network series. Highly recommended. The cost is $19.95, with a $3.95 shipping/handling charge, available through:

Sustainable Agriculture Publications
Hills Building, Room 210
University of Vermont
Burlington, VT 05405-0082
802-656-0484
802-656-4656 Fax
sanpubs@uvm.edu
www.sare.org/publications/soils.htm

An Agricultural Testament. 1943. By Sir Albert Howard. Oxford University Press, New York and London. 253 p.

Edaphos: Dynamics of a Natural Soil System, 2nd Edition. 1999. By Paul D. Sachs. The Edaphic Press, Newbury, VT. 201 p.

Fertile Soil: A Grower's Guide to Organic & Inorganic Fertilizers. 1990. By Robert Parnes. agAccess, Davis, CA. 190 p.

Humic, Fulvic, and Microbial Balance: Organic Soil Conditioning. 1993. By William R. Jackson. William R. Jackson Research Center, Evergreen, CO. 958 p.

The Living Soil. 1949. By Lady Eve Balfour. Faber and Faber, LTD., London, England. 270 p.

Michigan Field Crop Ecology: Managing Biological Processes for Productivity and Environmental Quality. 1998. By M.A. Cavigelli, S.R. Deming, L.K. Probyn, and R.R. Harwood (eds.) Michigan State University. Extension Bullentin E-2646. 92 p.

Organic Soil Amendments and Fertilizers. 1992. By David E. Chaney and Laurie E. Drinkwater. DNAR Publication No. 21505. UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. 36 p.

Russell's Soil Conditions and Plant Growth, 11th Edition. 1988. By Alan Wild (ed.) John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY. 991 p.

Secrets of the Soil. 1989. By Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird. Harper & Row Publishers, New York. 444 p.

Soil Fertility: Renewal & Preservation. 1983. By Ehrenfried Pfeiffer. The Lanthorn Press, Peredur, East Grinstead, Sussex, England. 199 p.

Soils and Men, Yearbook of Agriculture 1938. 1938. United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 1232 p.

The Soul of Soil: A Guide to Ecological Soil Management, 3rd Edition. 1995. By Grace Gershuny and Joseph Smillie. agAccess, Davis, CA. 174 p.

Special Issue on Soil Quality. 1992. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture. Vol. 7, No. 1-2.

Special Issue on Soil Quality. 1995. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. Vol. 50, No. 3 (May-June).

See the ATTRA publication Resource Guide to Organic and Sustainable Vegetable Production for further details on these and other books, videos, and web links on soil fertility topics, including publisher addresses.

Resources on the Albrecht Method

The Albrecht Papers (Vols. I-IV). 1975. By William A. Albrecht, and Charles Walters (ed.) Acres U.S.A., Kansas, MO.

The Albrecht Papers is a collection of popular-press articles, experiment station bulletins, and scientific journal articles published by the esteemed soil scientist from the University of Missouri. Many of the selections are hard-to-find newsletter and magazine articles representative of his post-retirement years (1959 onwards) when he worked as a consultant for Brookside Labs. A complete bibliography of Albrecht's publications from 1918 to 1974 are listed in Volume I.

Volume I. Foundation Concepts, 515 p.
Volume II. Soil Fertility and Animal Health, 192 p.
Volume III. Hidden Lessons in Unopened Books, 401 p.
Volume IV. Enter Without Knocking, 315 p.

Hands-On Agronomy. 1993. By Neal Kinsey and Charles Walters. Acres U.S.A., Kansas, MO. 352 p.

Resources on Eco-Farming: General

Eco-Farm: An Acres U.S.A. Primer. 1991. By Charles Walters and C.J. Fenzau. Acres U.S.A., Kansas, MO. 450 p.

Acres U.S.A. Desk Reference

The Desk Reference contains reprints of the Acres U.S.A. magazine between the years 1975 and '95, bound in a series of hardcover volumes.

The Biological Farmer. 2000. By Gary Zimmer. Acres U.S.A., Austin, TX. 352 p.

Crop Pests and Fertilizers—Is There a Connection? Circa 1990s. By Gary F. Zimmer. Midwestern Bio-Ag, Blue Mound, WI. 30 p.

Crop Roots—The Hidden Half. Circa 1990s. By Harold Willis. Midwestern Bio-Ag, Blue Mound, WI. 106 p.

Agriculture in Transition. 2000. By Donald L. Schriefer. Acres U.S.A., Austin, TX. 238 p.

From the Soil Up. 2000. By Donald L. Schriefer. Acres U.S.A., Austin, TX. 274 p.

More Food From Soil Science: The Natural Chemistry of Lime in Agriculture. 1965. By V.A. Tiedjens. Growers Chemical Corp., Milan, OH. 300 p.

Available for $15 through Growers Fertilization Solutions in Milan, Ohio (See Publishers Below).

Resources on the Reams Method

The Anatomy of Life & Energy in Agriculture. 1989. By Arden Andersen. Acres U.S.A., Kansas, MO. 115 p.

Science in Agriculture: The Professional's Edge. 1992. By Arden Andersen. Acres U.S.A., Kansas, MO. 370 p.

Choose! Life or Death: The Reams Theory of Biological Ionization. 1982. By Carey Reams. Holistic Laboratories, Tampa, FL. 171 p. ISBN: 0-9619345-0-6

Mainline Farming for Century 21. 1991. By Dan Skow and Charles Walters, Jr. Acres U.S.A., Kansas, MO. 205 p.

The Farmer Wants to Know. 1979. By Dan Skow. International Ag Labs, Fairmont, MN. 25 p.

The Farmer Wants to Know: Soil pH & Energy. 1991. By Dan Skow. International Ag Labs, Fairmont, MN. 27 p.

Non-Toxic Farming Handbook. 1998. By Philip Wheeler and Ronald Ward. Acres U.S.A., Metairie, LA. 238 p.

Nourishment Home Grown. 1992. By A.F. Beddoe. Agro-Bio Systems, Grass Valley, CA. 299 p.

Resources on Paramagnetism in Agriculture

Ancient Mysteries, Modern Visions: The Magnetic Life Of Agriculture. 1984. By Philip S. Callahan. Acres U.S.A., Kansas, MO. 142 p.

Exploring The Spectrum: Wavelengths Of Agriculture And Life. 1994. By Philip S. Callahan. Acres U.S.A., Kansas, MO. 178 p.

Paramagnetism: Rediscovering Nature's Secret Force Of Growth. 1995. By Philip S. Callahan. Acres U.S.A., Metairie, LA . 142 p.

The Enlivened Rock Powders. 1994. By Harvey Lisle. Acres U.S.A., Kansas, MO. 194 p.

Remineralize the Earth
152 South Street
Northampton, MA 01060-4021
413-586-4429
Contact: Joanne Campe
ReminEarth@aol.com
www.remineralize.org/

Remineralize the Earth in a non-profit organization that promotes the regeneration of soils and forests with finely ground gravel dust as an alternative to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In the 1980s and '90s, Remineralize the Earth published a quarterly journal, and back issues are an excellent way to read up on farmer practices and scientific research. Though it discontinued its print journal, RE, Inc maintains a website with articles from past journal issues, research reports, and an electronic forum on soil remineralization. RE, Inc. plans to develop an online magazine, a monthly digital newsletter, and a research database.

Joanne Campe, the editor, has compiled research packets on the use of rock dusts in agriculture and forestry that provide documentation from the practitioner and scientific literature. Packets include:

  • Soil Remineralization: Agriculture, 146 pages. $17.00
  • Soil Remineralization: Forestry and Sewage Treatment, 82 pages. $12.00
  • Complete Set of both Agriculture & Forestry/Sewage Sludge. $25.00

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Publishers

Books by Andersen, Skow, Walters, Albrecht, Lisle, Parnes, Gershuny, Thompkins, Sachs, Jackson, and Callahan are available through the Acres, U.S.A. Bookstore in Austin, TX. For a catalog, contact:

Acres USA Bookstore
P.O. Box 91299
Austin, TX 78709
800-355-5313
512-892-4400
512-892-4448 Fax
info@acresusa.com
www.acresusa.com

Books by Skow and Reams are available through International Ag Labs, Inc., in Fairmont, MN. Contact:

International Ag Labs, Inc.
P.O. Box 788
Fairmont, MN 56031
507-235-6909
507-235-9155 Fax
Contact: Dr. Dan Skow, Wendell Owens
ilab@rconnect.com
www.aglabs.com

Books by Beddoe are available from Pike Agri-Lab Supplies in Maine. Contact:

Pike Agri-Lab Supplies
154 Claybrook Rd.
P.O. Box 67
Jay, ME 04239
866-745-3247 Toll-Free
207-897-9267
207-897-9268 Fax
Contact: Bob Pike
info@pikeagri.com
www.pikeagri.com

Tiedjens' book More Food From Soil Science is distributed by Growers Nutritional Solutions.

Growers Nutritional Solutions
P.O. Box 1750
Milan, OH 44846
800-437-4769
419-499-2178 Fax
growers@web-seller.com

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Web Sites on Soil Health

Soil Quality Institute - NRCS
http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/

Soil Quality Information Sheets- NRCS Soil Quality Institute
http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/publications/files/sq_one_1.pdf

Agronomy Technical Notes - NRCS Soil Quality Institute
http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/publications/publications.html#sq_tn

Soil Quality Test Kit- NRCS Soil Quality Institute
http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/assessment/files/test_kit_complete.pdf

Soil Quality Resources - University of Illinois
/www.soilquality.org/resources/swcs_presentations/wander.html

The Soil Foodweb: Its Importance in Ecosystem Health
By Elaine Ingham
www.rain.org/~sals/ingham.html

Soil Biological Communities
Bureau of Land Management
www.blm.gov/nstc/soil/index.html

Soil And Health Library
www.soilandhealth.org/index.html

The Health of Our Soils: Toward Sustainable Agriculture in Canada http://sis.agr.gc.ca/cansis/publications/manuals/1995-1906/intro.html

Soil Quality—Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada
http://res2.agr.gc.ca/london/faq/soil-sols_e.htm

Soil quality and financial performance of biodynamic and conventional farms in New Zealand. 1993. J.P. Reganold, A.S. Palmer, J.C. Lockhart and A.N. Macgregor. Science 260: 344-349.
www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/newsletters

World Wide Web Sites with Information on Soil Quality
UC-SAREP Program, University of California
www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/

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Web Sites on Soil Testing and Nutrient Management

A Basic Guide for Interpreting Soil Test Values
Woods End Agricultural Laboratory
http://woodsend.org/consulting/soil-quality/

How to Use a Soil Test
Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Association of Biological Farmers
http://vabf.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/soiltestrev.pdf

New Tests of Soil Quality: Evaluating the Health of Your Soil's Microbial Community
Don Lotter, Farmer to Farmer Magazine—January-February 1997
http://donlotter.net/f2farm.html

Interpreting Soil Test Results for Commercial Crops
University of Maine Soil Testing Service & Analytical Lab
http://anlab.umesci.maine.edu/

Commercial Organic Nutrient Recommendations
University of Maine Soil Testing Service & Analytical Lab
http://anlab.umesci.maine.edu/handout/organ01.HTM

Understanding the Numbers on Your Soil Test Report
University of Arkansas
/www.uaex.edu/Other_Areas/publications/pdf/FSA-2118.pdf

Soil Testing Handbook for Professionals in Agriculture, Horticulture, Nutrient and Residuals Management, 3rd Edition
University of Maine Soil Testing Service & Analytical Lab
http://anlab.umesci.maine.edu/soillab_files/faq/handbook.pdf

Understand Your Soil Test: Calcium, Magnesium, Boron, Copper, Chlorine, Molybdenum
University of Nebraska
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2353&context=extensionhist

Selecting an Analytical Laboratory
Colorado State University
www.ext.colostate.edu/PUBS/crops/00520.html
www.ext.colostate.edu/PUBS/crops/00520.pdf

Soil Test Explanation
Colorado State University
www.ext.colostate.edu/PUBS/crops/00502.html
www.ext.colostate.edu/PUBS/crops/00502.pdf

Soil Test Interpretations
New Mexico State University
www.cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_a/a-122.html

Interpreting Missouri Soil Test Reports
University of Missouri-Columbia
http://muextension.missouri.edu/xplor/agguides/soils/g09112.htm

Soil Fertility Test Interpretation: Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium
Rutgers Cooperative Extension, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station
www.rcre.rutgers.edu/pubs/publication.asp?pid=FS719

Bob Lippert's Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Soil Testing, Plant Analysis, and Fertilizers
Department of Crop & Soil Environmental Science, Clemson University
http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~blpprt/bobweb/bobweb.html

Ohio Agronomy Guide: Soil Fertility | Bulletin 472-05
Ohio State University
http://ohioline.osu.edu/b472/index.html

Nutrient Management for Commercial Fruit & Vegetable Crops in Minnesota
University of Minnesota
www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/cropsystems/DC5886.html

Something to Grow On: Nutrient Management the Key to Successful Nursery Crop Production
Cornell University
http://cals.cornell.edu/

Plant Anaylsis Reference Procedures for the Southern Region of the United States
Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin 368
www.msstate.edu/org/saaesd/scsb/list/1990.htm

Procedures Used by State Soil Testing Laboratories in the Southern Region of the U.S.
Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin 190-B
www.msstate.edu/org/saaesd/scsb/list/1990.htm

Field Quick Tests for Nitrogen Analysis
CyberConference: Plant Nutrition and Fertilizers
www.greenbeam.com/features/cyb011501a2.stm

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Web Sites on Cation Exchange Capacity and Percent Base Saturation

Cation exchange capacity (CEC) and percent base saturation, also known as base cation saturation ratio (BCSR), provide helpful insight on the condition of soils and they are commonly expressed on soil tests. In addition, they are especially important in the mineral balancing approach promoted by the late Dr. William Albrecht. A few websites are provided below for background reading and understanding of these terms.

It should be noted that whereas CEC is universally acknowledged as a valid indicator, the BCSR approach (also known as mineral balancing), is not. Some people swear by it, some people give it little merit, and other people say Albrecht's ideas are valid only on Midwestern soils because they contain montmorillinite clays. In this regard, the web links to Mark Schonbeck's research on BCSR fertilization practices on kaolinite clay soils in the Southeastern U.S. are especially noteworthy; these field trials were conducted on organic vegetable farms, and funded by the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

Cation Exchange Capacity and Percent Base Saturation
Bob Lippert, Clemson University
www.clemson.edu/psapublishing/Pages/AGRO/IL64.pdf

What is the Use for the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and the Percent Base Saturation on the Soil Test Report?
Bob Lippert's Soil Testing Resources, Clemson University
http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~blpprt/bobweb/BOBWEB23.HTM

How are the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and Percent Base Saturation Calculated for the Soil Test Report?
Bob Lippert's Soil Testing Resources, Clemson University
http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~blpprt/bobweb/BOBWEB13.HTM

Soil Cation Ratios for Crop Production
George Rehm, University of Minnesota, North Central Regional Extension Publication 533
www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/cropsystems/DC6437.html

Soil Cation Nutrient Balancing in Sustainable Agriculture
Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Assocation of Biological Farmers
http://vabf.org/

Does my Soil Need Cation Nutrient Balancing?
Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Assocation of Biological Farmers
http://vabf.org/

Soil Nutrient Balancing in Sustainable Vegetable Production: Project Summary
Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Assocation of Biological Farmers
http://vabf.org/

Soil Nutrient Balancing in Sustainable Vegetable Production: Results of 2000 Season Field Trials, and Evaluation of the First Three Years
Mark Schonbeck, OFRF Research Report
http://ofrf.org/

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Web Sites on Compost Quality

The quality and use of composts and compost teas is a hot topic in sustainable agriculture. Items from ATTRA provide extensive links to key web-based resources.

Notes on Compost Teas
Steve Diver, ATTRA
https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=125

 

By Steve Diver
NCAT Agriculture Specialist
Copyright © 2002 National Center for Appropriate Technology
IP234
Slot 174

 

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This page was last updated on: June 29, 2012