When we started EarthWorks in 1988 we were challenging an established industry that didn’t believe in carbon based fertility or base saturation soil testing. We began to soil test our clients’ properties in order to assure the right soil environment for the success of our newly formulated products, and to validate their effectiveness. By balancing soils chemically they opened up physically and soil biology was in a better position to use the carbon that we were feeding them. This helped make important changes in the lives of our clients – better water holding capacities, deeper rooting, and more nutrient uptake with fewer inputs led to less stress on both the superintendent and the plant!
In 2001 we began a strategic partnership with Susan Shaner and Logan Labs in Lake View, Ohio. Susan’s level of experience and reputation in the soil testing industry is second to none. She built a facility with state of the art equipment, focused on quality control, and with the ability to turn around reports in less than a week. To help support our clients’ success EarthWorks, along with Logan Labs and Soil First Consulting, has been running over 10,000 soil tests annually for over a decade.
Balance The Chemistry And Feed The Soil
The phrase Balance the Chemistry and Feed the Soil was coined early in our history. It simply states that if you get the soil chemistry balanced through quality soil testing protocols and then focus your fertility program on carbon based inputs you will create a growing environment that is not only sustainable but will provide the championship conditions that all turf managers strive for.
Standard Soil Tests
The standard soil test is the starting point in any good turf management program. It gives us the basic nutritional load in the soil, provides base saturation percentage relationships, pounds per acre of the basic cations and anions including sodium, the cation exchange capacity (CEC), soil pH, and trace nutrient levels. Management through this test can help to open up tight soils and create a better environment for soil microbial populations improving nutrient mobility. The standard soil test is the “road map” when building a quality soil fertility program and helps to identify what to apply and how much. Standard soil tests should be taken every 1-3 years depending on levels of maintenance required on the site.
Water Soluble Paste Extracts
The water soluble paste extract test shows potential nutrient mobility of what is on the soil colloid, as seen on the standard soil test. This is a soil test using a weak extraction solution (de-ionized water) instead of the stronger acid (Melhic III) used with the standard soil test. This data is very valuable when building liquid and foliar feeding programs. It identifies bicarbonate loads, parts per million of the basic cations and anions, the important percentage between potassium and sodium and finally how soluble trace elements may or may not be.
Knowing what is in the irrigation water, and how it may effects the soil and fertility program, may be one of the most important tools in managing championship turf conditions. Contaminates in water can easily become the soil’s limiting factor and effect penetration of air and water. By identifying if irrigation water is depositing excess nutrients or contaminates like bicarbonates and salts into the soil, successful turf and soil management becomes easier.
Soil Testing Protocols
Base Line Program
A battery of Standard Soil Tests on identified sites every 1 – 3 years depending on importance of areas tested.
A Paste Extract program where a few Identified “target” sites are selected and run every 4-6 weeks or as needed to help evaluate trends of nutrient mobility.
Waters should be monitored once a season (4x/year) to identify potential differences of changing water supplies.