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New soil test hones in on microbial populations

Understanding microbial populations can lead to better soil health, yields - Farmtario, Sept 2020

by Jennifer Glenney, Farmtario

Soil microbes are key to improving soil health.

A new soil health test, VitTellus Bio Soil Health, launched by A&L Canada Laboratories quantifies soil microbial populations that support improved soil health and crop productivity.

The test is an extension of the VitTellus Soil Health Test, launched in 2018, and looks at providing deeper information about the physical and biological interaction in the soil.

Why it matters: VitTellus Bio Soil Health tests give producers an opportunity to look deeper into their soil components to make better agronomic decisions to improve soil health and crop productivity.

VitTellus Bio uses selective carbon sources to measure the concentration of specific functional microbial groups within the soil that have known benefits.

Research has shown that certain carbon sources have known benefits, such as nitrogen fixation. Optimal ranges of these functional microbes are provided and, along with the soil chemistry metrics, will allow the user to implement farm management strategies to increase favourable soil microbe populations.

“So what we are doing is taking the VitTellus Soil Health and taking it one step further with VitTellus Bio to actually identify and quantify the microbes in the soil that are associated with improving soil health and crop yield,” says Nevin McDougall, president and Chief Commercial Officer of A&L Canada Laboratories.

The five main groups of soil microbes with a high correlation to soil health include rhizobium, pseudomonas, gram negative bacteria, along with a range of bacteria within the category of bio-stimulation and disease suppressing microbes.

“This combination of microbes supports better nutrient utilization. The bacteria essentially are able to sequester and make accessible the right nutrients and improve the utilization of those nutrients within the plant for productivity,” said McDougall.

Included in the soil report are various microbial populations and their associated nutrient level. There are specific nutrient ranges required to be able to support the expansion of these microbes.

“If your pH is not in the optimal zone, it will not support the development of these microbes. Another example would be your potassium to magnesium ratio. We provide a recommendation on the correct ratio that supports good microbial growth and development.”

When looking at the soil test, if the nutrient levels are not in optimal range, the fertility program can be adjusted to the correct ranges to support optimal microbial development.

A&L is taking commercial samples to have in house and process, in hopes this fall to have clients interested.

“It allows (farmers) to be much more targeted in their plant management practices to improve soil health. It allows them to really narrow in their focus on what they need to change in their nutrients, to prescription their fertility program to really cultivate a strong microbial profile,” says McDougall.

“This analysis allows clients to understand their current soil microbial populations and take concrete actions to cultivate microbes which support healthier soils, stronger plants and greater returns for the farmer, and society,” says Greg Patterson, Certified Crop Advisor, founder and CEO of A&L. “This is a worthwhile, long-view endeavour. We strongly encourage farmers to truly get to know their soils for their longstanding success.”


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