Source: KANSAS STATE UNIV submitted to
SOIL QUALITY TEST KIT DISTRIBUTION AND TESTING BY FARMERS
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
TERMINATED
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Annual
Accession No.
0182044
Grant No.
(N/A)
Project No.
KS520
Proposal No.
(N/A)
Multistate No.
(N/A)
Program Code
(N/A)
Project Start Date
Oct 1, 1999
Project End Date
Sep 30, 2004
Grant Year
(N/A)
Project Director
Janke, R. R.
Recipient Organization
KANSAS STATE UNIV
(N/A)
MANHATTAN,KS 66506
Performing Department
HORTICULTURE & FORESTRY
Non Technical Summary
Farmers will be asked to perform a series of tests on paired fields, to validate the test kit. Interviews, written surveys, and focus groups will be conducted with farmers who volunteer to participate. Distribution of a final version of the soil quality test kit will complete and accomplish the goals of this project. A control soil will also be supplied with the test kit, for comparison and calibration of the nutrient status tests and the aggregate stability test.
Animal Health Component
100%
Research Effort Categories
Basic
(N/A)
Applied
100%
Developmental
(N/A)
Classification

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
10101101060100%
Knowledge Area
101 - Appraisal of Soil Resources;

Subject Of Investigation
0110 - Soil;

Field Of Science
1060 - Biology (whole systems);
Goals / Objectives
1. Assemble a suite of tests that will serve as a quantitative evaluation of important soil quality factors on Kansas soils. 2. Validate these tests by comparison with standard tests, and determine the number of samples required per field for an accurate assessment of each factor. 3. Obtain feedback from farmers on which tests provide meaningful results to them, which tests are useful, but too time consuming, and which tests need to be performed within a standardized lab setting. 4. Assemble and distribute soil quality test kits to farmers for "beta-testing" on their farms. 5. Determine the interest level among farmers in Kansas in purchasing a soil quality test kit, and find the means for distributing these kits.
Project Methods
Introduction: Research and dissemination of information on soil quality has increased greatly in the past few years. Much progress has been made, and several published documents define soil quality, describe physical, chemical, and biological properties associated with soil quality, and the cropping systems that help improve soil quality. Soil quality can be defined as "the fitness of a specific soil to function within its surroundings, support plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and support human health and habitation." Tests that are associated with soil quality include increasing levels of soil carbon or organic matter, the presence of water stabile aggregates, the absence of compaction (surface and subsurface), and appropriate levels of various crop nutrients and pH in the soil. Some success has been achieved in distributing soil testing tools to farmers, including the late spring nitrate test used to estimate nitrogen needs for corn in Iowa, Vermont, and in other states. Dissemination of soil quality test information is happening through the NRCS Soil Quality Institute, and in individual states. For example, the University of Maryland has published a Soil Quality Assessment Book and the University of Minnesota in collaboration with the Land Stewardship Project has published a unit on soil quality in their Whole Farm Assessment notebook. Dr. John Doran, USDA/ARS has put together a soil quality test kit for evaluation by researchers in collaboration with farmers. In Kansas, we have been field testing the kit proposed by John Doran, developing new tests, and trying out some additional tests proposed by other researchers. In workshops with farmers, we are finding that there is a great interest in being able to perform some tests on their own soils, to monitor progress when using soil improving practices. Particularly among organic farmers, where soil improving crop rotations are required for certification, farmers are asking how they can prove or validate whether their practices are in fact improving the soil. In a recent workshop in western Kansas, many farmers stated that printed information is helpful, but what they really needed was a package of tests, ready to use, that require a minimum amount of time, but are still quantitative enough to document real changes.

Progress 10/01/99 to 09/30/04

Outputs
This project began with a survey of the literature of soil testing with test kits and a list of test kits that are currently available. Several different kits were tested for various soil parameters including pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, texture, and organic matter/hummus. Some of the lower-priced kits were not accurate enough for field use. The moderately priced kits were not as precise as the University soil test lab, but were accurate enough to base recommendations for general fertility needs of crops and to document changes in soil quality. The highest priced kits are out of the range of what farmers would be willing to pay, compared to the service and accuracy offered by the University of private soil test labs. In a project to determine operator variability, between operator variance tended to be higher at the trace and low levels, but was only statistically significant for the nitrogen test at the low level. Within operator variablity was signficant for nitrogen and potassium. The soil texture test showed that adapting standard devices sold based on particle size settling rate can speed up the test and improve accuracy. A Ph.D. dissertation has been completed from this project, and several manuscripts from the work will be published in the near future.

Impacts
Results have been extended to farmers through workshops such as the 'Growing Growers' program in Kansas City, field days, Master Gardener workshops, and special trainings. Kits are also being used in the high tunnel project at KSU and in collaboration with farmers. A survey of teachers involved in the vo-ag classes that we worked with last year was very favorable, and all desired to participate in the program again. Information and test kits were also shared internationally in a partnership program with Paraguay, and the soil test website (www.oznet.ksu.edu/kswater) is published in English and in Spanish, to facilitate use by NGO's and others in Latin America.

Publications

  • Ramiro Rodriguez, Ph.D Dissertaion, December, 2004. . " Evaluation of Soil and Water Test Kits for Farmers"


Progress 01/01/03 to 12/31/03

Outputs
Soil quality and water quality have become key components of an outreach and education effort within the Marais des Cygnes basin, in eastern KS. Five highschool vo-ag classes are participating, with an estimated 100 students. Trainings have taken place in the fall of 2003. Research efforts continue to refine the accuracy of the soil test kits by quantifying person-to-person variability in using the same tests on the same sets of soils. A split-plot design is used, with 4 nutrient levels and 3 replications within each soil set. Seven replications of individuals conducting the tests are used. Preliminary results show that variation within person is similar for identical soils, if not higher than variation among individuals. In another line of work, refinement of the soil texture quick test is being explored with several prototype improved models, and different methodologies. These methods are based on settling time of soil, and are compared to standard hydrometer methods for estimating soil texture. Improvements in ease of use, quickness of settling time, and accuracy were noted for 2 of the prototypes. This research will be published along with other comparisons of quick tests and lab tests in a Ph.D. thesis and subsequent publications.

Impacts
Farmers who test soil and water on their farms will achieve savings for their farms and benefits to their communities through: 1) not over-applying fertilizers, 2) reducing run-off of nutrients into surface and ground water, and 3) conserving soil, nutrients, and preserving the integrity of these resources for wildlife and other farming and non-farming uses.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period


Progress 01/01/02 to 12/31/02

Outputs
During the previous year, 2001, five farm sites were used to test the test kits, for both soil and water quick tests. For the 2002 growing season, the test kits that had been identified as having results that compared favorably to lab tests were given to seven additional farmers, to pilot test farmer use of the kits. Farmers were encouraged to collect soil samples in the spring, and to collect water samples a minimum of 4 times a year to assess water quality at baseline flow, and at additional times of the year corresponding to high rainfall and run-off. Soil tests included in the kits included pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and organic matter. Water tests included pH, nitrate, ammonia, ortho-phosphorus, turbidity, E. coli bacteria, and atrazine. Results show that few farmers actually test soil, even though results of the soil test could assist them in production decisions. Many farmers are interested in obtaining the results of soil tests, but have trouble finding the time to collect the soil and run the tests. On two farms, school-aged children were able to successfully run the tests. Procedural manuals were given to all farms, and were well received. A short version of the manual would also be useful, to further assist in interpretation of the soil and water tests. Organic matter was the most requested soil test, and bacterial contamination, along with pesticide contamination were the most requested water tests. All participants were highly motivated to participate in the project in general by personal stewardship ethic, and curiosity about their own farms and farming practices. Barriers to adoption of using test kits were cited primarily as time, and motivation to actually start the tests. Ideas for overcoming these barriers suggested by participants included more field visits from KSU staff, and calendar date deadlines for reporting data.

Impacts
If farmers begin regular testing of soil and water on their farms, savings will be achieved by 1) farmers who find out that they may not need to apply as much fertilizer, 2) the general public, as farm run-off of fertilizers, manures and chemicals reduces the cost of water treatment for public drinking water supplies, and 3) society will benefit along with wildlife and aquatic flora and fauna as the streams, rivers, and riparian zones achieve ecological integrity.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period


Progress 01/01/01 to 12/31/01

Outputs
Samples were collected on 5 pilot farms at 5 sampling dates during the 2001 growing season. Water samples were compared using at least 3 different field test methods, and KSU lab methods. Soil samples were collected and results compared to KSU lab results. Results show that at least one or more of the field test methods for both soil and water sampling compared favorably to the KSU lab results. It was also found that on average, the field test methods cost between one fifth to one tenth the cost of laboratory procedures. A test kit with approximately 30 soil and 50 water tests cost about $414 from commercially available sources, as compared to between $2000 and $6500 for professional lab services. Some of the savings are accounted for by the time that farmers need to put in to conducting their own tests, and some is the trade-off between precision and cost. However, with the lower cost, farmers can afford to conduct far more tests than they would otherwise, thus improving the overall accuracy of the data, and the applicability of the data to their farms. The correlations and regressions performed on the field test vs. lab data are being summarized in publications, and the overall recommendations have been written up in a field guide handbook. In a second phase of this project, another 7 farmers have been given test kits, and before vs. after surveys will show 1) whether they use the test kit, 2) whether the data is meaningful to them, and 3) whether they change behaviors or farming practices based on the feedback from the data. This program is closely linked to the "River Friendly Farms" self-assessment notebook, used at KSU and various non-profit organizations in Kansas as part of voluntary efforts by farmers to meet the new state TMDL goals.

Impacts
If farmers begin regular testing of soil and water on their farms, savings will be achieved by 1) farmers who find out that they may not need to apply as much fertilizer, 2) the general public, as farm run-off of fertilizers, manures and chemicals reduces the cost of water treatment for public drinking water supplies, and 3) society will benefit along with wildlife and aquatic flora and fauna as the streams, rivers, and riparian zones achieve ecological integrity

Publications

  • No publications reported this period


Progress 01/01/00 to 12/31/00

Outputs
Research continues on the application of the soil quality test kit for farmer use. Five test farms have been chosen for a pilot study. In the pilot study the soil quality test kit is being combined with a water quality test kit. Links between soil quality, especially nutrient loading, and water quality in adjacent streams is of interest in this study. Relevance of the soil quality test kit for gardeners is also being examined. Several presentations involving hands-on testing of garden soil have proved to be very beneficial in an educational setting.

Impacts
Seven talks were given in FY 2000 to farmer and gardener audiences specifically on soil quality, and the soil quality test kit, and data were presented. Approximately 20 additional talks throughout the year on River Friendly Farm planning and an organic farming included soil quality as a component of the over-all presentation.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period


Progress 01/01/99 to 12/31/99

Outputs
Data were collected and analyzed from three long term cropping systems experiments. One long term experiment included 10 years of continuous corn with vs. without tillage, and with livestock manure, soluble fertilizer, or no fertilizer inputs. A second experiment compared till vs. no-till in a sorghum, wheat, soybean rotation. A third experiment examined the role of residue removal on soil quality in a corn, sorghum, wheat soybean rotation. Results showed that most soil quality parameters improved with no-till, but only in the surface layer (0-5 cm). Manuare additions also improved organic matter, water stable aggregates, and particulate organic matter at the 0-5 and the 5-30 cm layers. Leaving crop residue on the field resulted in significant increases in soil quality as measured by organic matter and water stable aggregates as compared to residue removal.

Impacts
If practiced by farmers, soil quality improvement could result in saving 15.35 tons per acre of carbon if wheat straw remains on the field rather than being burned or removed. Similarly, an additional 21.45 tons of carbon per acre would be added to soil in corn cropping systems if animal manure were used rather than soluble fertilizers.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period