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for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
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Soil Test Mehlich 3  RSS feed

 
Jose Reymondez
Posts: 137
Location: Galicia, Spain Zone 9
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So I've been having trouble finding a place to get a soil test using the mehlich 3 method. I found one in Spain (La Rioja) but they charge 100 euros and in the States it costs 25 dollars so it doesn't seem very fair. I'm tempted to send my sample to the States as it'd be much cheaper but the headache of getting soil through customs makes me wary of doing so.

Anyone know a decent soil test lab on this continent

Thanks!

 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2392
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May I ask why you are asking all us Permies about a chemical agriculture test? Presumably, when you get the results of this soil test, it will come with a recommendation of how much agricultural chemical you need to apply. But that is not the way Permies think. If there is an imbalance in the soil, we usually infer it from the plant response to the soil, i.e., what does well or what does poorly. From there, we apply not a chemical supplement, but organic matter that contains a broad spectrum of the different chemical nutrients. If your Melich3 soil test indicated that phosphorus was low, we would be suggesting adding bone meal or ashes to correct that deficiency.

Chemical tests are fine when you are investigating a chemical process. But growing plants is a biological process. Biology has lots more complexity than chemistry. Biology can correct phosphorus deficiencies with transport through fungal networks, which finesses the problem in a way the chemist can never do with his bags of P2O5 equivalent. Just my humble opinion.
 
Jose Reymondez
Posts: 137
Location: Galicia, Spain Zone 9
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I've never applied any chemicals nor plan on it. I don't even use "natural" pesticides like neem oil or nettles.

I read the intelligent gardener and Im curious about the mineral balance of my soil and that's the test it recommends in the book. Just want to know what's in my soil. Is the Olsen test more "permie"? Should I not get a soil test at all and hope all of the minerals my plants needs will be in the soil?

I know what you're talking about with fungi, I've read Stamets and others. I am fascinated by mycellium and hope to build a giant fungal network in my forest garden but I have a piece of land that has been farmed since the Romans got here. There might be very, very little phosphorous in my soil and I'd like to know how much. Can fungi produce it out of thin air? If they can't, I'll need to apply something (organic) and I'd like to know in what proportions rather than tossing lots and lots of organic matter willy-nilly. From my understanding the soil is complex and one mineral can effect how another is held in the soil. You can't just toss a bunch of organic matter and expect it all to work itself out, can you? I don't know, I'm still learning.

This piece of land has always relied on animal manure for fertilization, it has always been "organic" because chemical agriculture never became popular on these small plots of land with traditional people. However, even though my father and grandfather only ate "organic, local food" they were short, malnourished and unhealthy. My grandfather died young of diabetes and my father relies on many medications. Every relative that I have met that has lived off of this land has been short and has had bad teeth. I want to be like a hunter-gatherer: great teeth, strong, alert, great immune system. So I suspect that there are some minerals they weren't getting from our soil and I don't want to fall in to the same health traps. So yeah, I want to know what's in there because there's no one here to teach me to read the land and know what is deficient and what is not just by looking at what grows where and how well. Also, I think some plants can sometimes grow well and still be lacking in minerals that are key for human health and maybe not as key for their growth.

If anything I would apply rock flour the way Jairo Restrepo recommends. He's not that well known in the anglophone world but is very, very big on building soil life and avoiding chemical treatments.

Don't doubt my permieness, I am 100% permie through and through!

 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Jose Reymondez wrote: You can't just toss a bunch of organic matter and expect it all to work itself out, can you?


Well, yea, if you have the time to wait for it all to decompose, that's the Permie approach to solving soil problems.

If there is "very, very little" phosphorus in your soil, then any soil test is going to point that out to you. You don't have to have the latest test cooked up in Big Ag laboratories that buffers it to an exacting pH, extracts it for a specific time with the right mix of counterions to tell you that. Or you can even go on that assumption and just cart in phosphorus in various forms. Are there restaurants that toss bones into the garbage? Ask them if they will save them in a bucket for you. Every time I do a biochar burn, into the barrel with the wood chips goes any pieces of bone that I have recently collected -- chicken drumsticks, a ham bone, a piece from a deer carcass that was on the side of the road -- if I see bones, I collect them. During the burn, the wood turns into biochar and the bones turn into bonechar, which is just what my garden soil needs.

I do spread the wealth of biochar and bonechar around. Maybe more uniform than "willy-nilly", that sounds like you have a random pile here and another random pile way over there. I figure that if I spread the biochar and bonechar and compost tea uniformly through the garden, then the fungi can do the rest of the nutrient transport with their underground mycelial networks.

One positive thing about where you are, remember that big ash cloud from the volcano in Iceland back in 2011? There's your dose of trace minerals that your soil needs. I wonder if anyone has done any before and after comparisons of soil chemistry due to that event. Another topic for me to look up on Google.

You know, since I have retired from working in the chem lab, I don't have nearly the desire to know the exact concentrations of all the ions in my soil. I've adopted the Permie approach 100%, just like you, but with my background it's going to take an awful lot to pry 100 Euro out of my hands for a soil test.
 
Wojciech Majda
Posts: 43
Location: Vietnam
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@Jose Reymondez

Laverstoke Park labs in the UK do the Mehlich-3 test, I think they charge 45 pounds (~60euro), so it's slightly cheaper.

And don't believe in the Church of Organic Matter - if it's not in the soil it's not in your food. Use whatever methods you have to, to supply soil with essential nutrients as it's so important.

@John Elliott
You can supply essential nutrients to your soil in a form that's USDA Organic approved. Soil test only tells you what you have in the soil. They don't force you to buy fertilizers. If you need 100pounds of phosphate for optimal production you can add 500 pounds of rock phosphate. But if you for example need copper it's the easiest to add copper sulfate.


Anyway there are plenty of soils with huge amount of organic matter, that are deficient in nutrients and that they produce poor quality plants and animals.
 
S Usvy
Posts: 84
Location: South NB
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Jose,

Which US lab did you find? I'm currently looking into testing our soil too...
 
Wojciech Majda
Posts: 43
Location: Vietnam
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S Ussvy
Check out Logan Labs:
http://www.loganlabs.com/testing-procedures.html
They are very good.
 
S Usvy
Posts: 84
Location: South NB
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Thanks! Logan Labs told me they do two types of weak acid tests - ammonium acetate 7.0 and 8.2. No idea which one to go for... Help?
 
Wojciech Majda
Posts: 43
Location: Vietnam
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Do you know what's the pH of your soil?
 
S Usvy
Posts: 84
Location: South NB
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Oops, got side-tracked by life. No, I don't know our pH. I can do a simple vinegar/baking soda thing to see which side of 7 we fall on, but that's about it before sending it to the lab. What are my choices depending on pH?

 
Wojciech Majda
Posts: 43
Location: Vietnam
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If you have pH above 7, then you need to do AA8.2 test. I think it's more expensive, but that's what you need to do. If your pH is below 7 and your soil is not fizzing you do standard Mehlich soil test.

"Given the ability of both the M3 and AA extractants to extract more base cations
than are actually exchangeable, which soil test can be used to extract
exchangeable cations and only exchangeable cations from a high-pH soil? The
answer turns out to be the ammonium acetate test, but only after it has been
modified to have a pH higher than the soil sample being tested.
Ammonium acetate is made by mixing aqueous ammonia NH3 with acetic acid
CH3COOH, the acid found in common vinegar. The pH of the resulting ammonium
acetate solution (NH4C2H3O2) will depend on the ratio of acetic acid to ammonia in
the mixture. If more ammonia is added the mix becomes more alkaline, more
acetic acid makes it more acidic. For soil extractant use the mixture has usually
been made at pH7 or pH7.2. Adding a pH7 solution to a soil of pH >7 will result in
alkaline mineral compounds being dissolved along with exchangeable bases. By
adding more ammonia to the solution, the pH can be raised to 8.0 to 8.5, above
the pH of most agricultural soils. For soils in the 7.0 to 8.0 pH range the
ammonium acetate extractant is commonly raised to pH8.2. This is known as the
AA8.2 soil test."

Ideal Soil by Michael Astera
 
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