What’s available to the plant is what counts, agrees ISU’s Mallarino. “It is a miracle that soil tests work at all and that we can correlate results to what a plant needs in the field."

Until recently, both lines of thought were literally academic. There was no point in university researchers making recommendations for a process that wasn't used. That’s now changed with the introduction of rapid field moist sample analysis by Solum, through its soils lab in Ames, Iowa.

ISU is again offering this test, and will publish new interpretations for use with field moist sample analysis.

High-tech analysis equipment like flow injection analyzers, inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometers and pH robots are revolutionizing soil testing. Doors to the new labopened on Sept. 17, 2012. Solum ran between 2,000 and 2,500 samples a day in its first week, with results out in three days or fewer of samples’ arrival.

"Using our cloud-based system, customers can log in and actually watch their sample go through the system and see final results as they’re produced," says Leon Zinck, Solum national sales manager. "The industry went to dry samples for high-volume handling and efficiency. Our system provides quick, high throughput capacity with field moist samples."

Solum also introduced a rapid nitrate testing system using optical bin sensor technology that can be field-installed in local ag retail facilities. Growers in south-central Minnesota were among the first to field test both technologies this past year. Central Valley Co-op (CVC) used Solum's labs for moist soil sampling and its field lab for nitrate tests.