Estimating nitrogen mineralization capacity of soil post-drought

Conventional soil testing provides growers with a look at the concentration of minerals present in soil.

Western Ag soil analysis takes soil testing one step further by providing growers with a look at what minerals are available for root uptake.

Edgar Hammermeister is one of the lead agronomists for Western Agriculture, and he spoke with RealAgriculture’s Atley Hamlin at the Soils and Crops event at the University of Saskatchewan last week.

Hammermeister explains that the process uses an ion exchange resin membrane called the plant root simulator probe. This probe measures the plant-available nutrient supply rate, which is a unit over time and not a concentration. Hammermeister says they like to refer to this as doing “a horsepower rating” of the soil.

Western Ag consults for producers as well. Hammermeister says that for their consulting customers they take the data from the soil analysis and run it through a computer model to provide growers with a crop plan. He adds that it’s important for growers to understand the mineralization potential of soil as it can save on fertilizer costs, if measured accurately.

In his presentation, Hammermeister¬† provided a comparison of summer and fall soil samples taken over the last three years. He’s observed of a lack of awareness for nitrogen mineralization buildup that occurs over time as soil dries. A drought-induced mineralization burst is also known as the Birch effect and becomes stronger the longer soil dries and the greater the soil organic carbon.

Western Ag carry out a pre-wetting protocol on fall samples to trigger the Birch effect that occurs naturally in the spring to be able to read accurate mineral content of the soil.