Technology Advances in the Agriculture Soil Lab

Technology Advances in the Agriculture Soil Lab

Date: 9 May 2018
Author: Hill Laboratories

Monitoring changes in soil organic matter and nitrogen is useful for managing soil quality, particularly in cropping and horticultural soils or other intensive farm systems. Hill Laboratories’ Agriculture clients are able to enjoy the benefits of several innovative approaches undertaken in the lab. The adoption of a robotic soil-tapping process and in-line Near-Infra-Red Spectroscopy (NIRS) technology at Hill Laboratories has allowed for speedy turnaround-times and electronically controlled sample-handling as well as some real price benefits.

Hill Laboratories is the only laboratory in the world to operate a purpose-built soil-tapping robot with the addition of an in-line NIRS instrument. The latest iteration of our soil-extraction robot is named ASTRO (automatic soil tapping robot), a bespoke machine, designed to “tap” out soil into pottles for extraction for each of the Basic Soil tests (pH, OlsenP, Exchangeable Cations). The use of automation significantly reduces risk of sample-handling error and allows for more efficient use of labour.

The addition of the in-line NIRS means that every soil sample received in the lab for the Basic Soil profile tests also has an NIRS scan captured (Fig.1), so that additional soil test parameters can be reported quickly and at a low cost. To ensure that you save time and money from our innovative approach to soil NIRS, we report most of the critical soil analytes by NIRS, including Total Nitrogen, Potentially Available Nitrogen, Organic Matter, Anion Storage Capacity and others. To highlight the benefits you receive from using Hill Laboratories soil analysis service, the conventional “wet chemistry” method for Potentially Available Nitrogen requires a 7-day incubation, whilst NIRS technology typically allows a 3-4 day routine turnaround time for Basic Soil tests.

Requested individually, the Organic Soil Profile (OrgSP), Total Nitrogen, Organic Matter (Total Carbon), Potentially Available Nitrogen and C:N ratio would be $53, but the use of NIRS in the laboratory means we can package these together and pass on the cost savings benefits to our customers. This means they can be bundled together for $36 per sample when the Organic Soil Profile (OrgSP) is requested. Monitoring changes in soil organic matter and nitrogen is useful for managing soil quality, particularly in cropping and horticultural soils or other intensive farm systems.

If getting accurate results with industry-leading turnaround times, all for a price that is hard to beat is important to your farming system, then we'd be happy to meet your needs.

 Image shows in-line NIRS scanning on ASTRO.