Friday, November 15, 2013

Soil Health Laboratory at University of Missouri

The University of Missouri Soil Health Laboratory is responding to growing interest in evaluating soil health. The new laboratory grew out of the long-running Soil Characterization Laboratory. Its goal is to measure key indicators of soil health just as physicians measure body temperature and blood pressure to evaluate human health.

The laboratory is conducting physical analyses of soil health including wet aggregate stability and bulk density. These analyses evaluate how well water will infiltrate a soil, how well a soil will hold the water, and how well roots will be able to penetrate the soil to take in water and nutrients.

Chemical analyses used to evaluate soil health include soil pH and effective cation exchange capacity to assess nutrient availability plus total and active fractions of soil carbon and nitrogen are measured to assess soil organic matter quantity and quality. Potential mineralizable nitrogen analysis estimates the amount of nitrogen released through the growing seasons and made available to plants. Active carbon measurements estimate the portion of soil organic carbon that is actively being broken down and transformed by microorganisms releasing nutrients.

While measurements of aggregate stability, active carbon and potentially mineralizable nitrogen are related to the activity and numbers of microorganisms, the Soil Health Laboratory also measures soil biology using Phospholipid Fatty Acid analysis. This procedure estimates the mass of soil microorganisms, the proportions of bacterial and fungal types, and can be used to evaluate relative microbial stress among soils.

The Soil Health Laboratory looks forward to working with land managers to help maintain healthy soils function to produce food and fiber, infiltrate and store water, accumulate organic matter and store and release nutrients for plants and other soil organisms.

For more information contact: Soil Characterization, Soil Health, & Geotechnical Engineering Laboratories, E2509 Lafferre Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, 573-882-0941 or Email.


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