Biological and Nutrient Packages Available

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Why Should I Test My Soil?

It is nearly impossible to predict what affect any product will have on your soil if you have no idea what is going on within your soil.  The very first step anyone should take is to find out what are they working with?  Once you have determined what your soil lacks or has an abundance of you can begin to restructure the soil from a biological standpoint.  Earthfort specializes in soil biology.  We analyze biology reports completed with a soil test and then make recommendations to improve that soil depending on our client’s goal.  We take proven science and translate that into practical application. Soil testing can help you achieve healthy soil.

The benefits of healthy soil:

  • Improved Soil Health
  • Reduced Water Usage
  • Improved nutrient cycling
  • Increased drought resistance
  • Deeper root growth
  • Improved soil structure
  • Increased disease resistance

Watch how to complete the Lab Test Order Form

Download Order Form & Follow Shipping Instructions

US Testing Order Form

(for samples originating within the US and US territories)

International Testing Order Form

(for samples originating from foreign countries)

IMPORTANT NOTEEarthfort is pleased to offer testing to clients living and sampling in other countries. In order to keep this service available, you must comply with United States Department of Agriculture’s regulations. In addition to filling out our International Order form and including it in your box, clients sending foreign samples MUST first contact us to request an official PPQ Form 599 Customs Permit to be sent to you, prior to taking samples and shipping them to us. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO HAND CARRY ANY TYPE OF FOREIGN SAMPLE INTO THE UNITED STATES, SAMPLES MUST BE SHIPPED TO OUR LABORATORY PER PERMIT REQUIREMENTS. Failing to follow USDA requirements for packaging and shipping of samples can result in delays in samples arriving at our lab, sample loss or destruction, package returns, and fines up to $300,000 US dollars, as well as our discontinuation of this service. These requirements are in place to safeguard United States agriculture and natural resources; violations of these regulations are taken very seriously.

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Soil, Compost, and Liquid Sampling Instructions


Soil, Compost, and Liquid Sampling Instructions

Details how to take a soil, compost, or liquid samples and how much material is needed to perform the test(s).

For instructions on how to mail your samples for their safe arrival to our lab, click here.

Soil Testing Overview

We utilize a variety of testing methodologies to measure the abundance of life in soils and soil amendments. All testing methods are scientifically validated. Results provide indicators of soil health and function (references available upon request).

Testing packages and the individual assays are defined below. Except where noted, these tests do not identify specific organisms. Biology tests measure the Biomass of Total Populations in general categories of the functional groups. (Some below assays identify to species). Totals of these groups represent a snapshot of the biological profile or nutrient profile of the soil or amendment at the time of testing. While some of these tests can be performed singularly, together they represent a comprehensive picture of the health and utility of the material tested.

Measuring the Biomass of bacteria in a sample is the first step in understanding the health of a soil and the potential benefit of an inoculum or amendment. Total population of bacteria provides us with an indicator of abundance of food for predators, nutrient cycling capacity and general diversity of the bacterial population. We report this number as micrograms per gram or micrograms per milliliter (μg/g or μg/ml) of biomass. The Active population is the component of the Total Biomass that is currently metabolizing oxygen; i.e., the functional fraction of the bacteria. The relative range of these two numbers varies based on crop type and season. When looking at inoculants the balance between Active and Total is important for two different reasons: In compost this balance needs to be below 10%, indicating a mature and stable material. In liquid inoculums, higher ratios are better for a foliar application. This high activity assists the organisms stick to the plant surface. For soil application of a liquid, this balance may not be as critical as bacteria will become active in the soil environment.
Fungi play an important role in nutrient retention and transportation, soil structure and pH in the soil. Plant system succession is directly linked to the ratio of Fungi to Bacteria and is the first area we address when we approach remediation steps. Like bacteria, we report Biomass of Fungi in as micrograms per gram or micrograms per milliliter (μg/g or μg/ml). Instead of counting individual populations, we measure length and width of fungi present. Reporting this as biomass we can do direct comparisons of Fungi and Bacteria. When we observe and measure fungi we are looking at three primary things, total population, activity level (same basic method as Bacteria) and average hyphal diameter. Diameter not only helps us determine biomass, but in general terms, identifies whether the overall population of fungi is beneficial. On average diameter greater than 2.5 μm is ideal. Hyphal diameter also helps in reporting relative diversity; the more diverse the fungi present in the sample, the better.
Measuring Protozoa is a bit different from measuring Bacteria and Fungi. Our method involves creating several dilutions of the sample and then correlating presence and absence of each group to create a Most Probable Number #/g or #/ml. Unlike bacteria and fungi, it can take up to 5 days to complete this test. Protozoa are typically single cell organisms that feed upon bacteria. Flagellates and Amoebae are true aerobes, meaning they must have adequate oxygen to survive, while Ciliates are Facultative Anaerobes, meaning they can survive in low oxygen conditions. Numbers of Protozoa in are very important as an indicator of potential nutrient cycling. If there are sufficient levels of Flagellates and Amoebae then aerobic nutrient cycling can occur; however, high levels of Ciliates can be an indicator that anaerobic nutrient cycling is occurring. We use Ciliates to help identify potential anaerobic conditions in the sample.
The process for identifying and quantifying Nematodes is relatively simple in function, but the results are often a very useful indicator of the health of soil. Similar to Protozoa, Nematodes are very important for the nutrient cycling they provide. We report total number of Nematodes per gram or ml in the sample, then we breakdown this total population to Genus and Functional Group. The Functional Groups of Nematodes are: Bacterial Feeders: This group of Beneficial Nematodes feeds on bacteria, they help to keep the bacterial populations in balance and in the process of consumption cycle soluble nutrients in the root zone of the plants. Fungal Feeders: As the name would suggest this group of Nematodes feeds on fungi, again, keeping these populations in balance and cycling nutrients in the root zone. Many of these types of Nematodes also feed on fungi that can cause disease in plants. Having a good, diverse population of these or