Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Soil Tests and Land-Grant Universities

The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 established Land-Grant Universities to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture and science in contrast to the historic practice of higher education focusing on an abstract liberal arts curriculum.

Today, there are 76 Land-Grant Universities in the US, with primary support and research funding from BigAg (like Monsanto, Dow, BASF, Bayer and Syngenta). All our Extension Agents are educated at Land-Grant Universities, and are biased in favor of BigAg, because that's what they have been taught.

Thus, it is with some trepidation that I'm sending soil samples to Virginia Tech. I did that 6 years ago, and although I no longer have the results copy, I recall it was heavy on synthetic NPK application. No mention of organic matter, or growing organically. 

To be fair, 99% of what the Extension Service offers is wonderful (and free) information, everything from raising rabbits to home canning safety.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is an educational outreach program of Virginia's land grant universities: Virginia Tech and Virginia State University are a part of the national Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Routine soil testing is free through Virginia Extension Service, plus an additional (optional) $6 per sample to test for soluble salts and organic matter. I don't remember if those additional tests were available 6 years ago, or I just didn't have the money. With 19 acres, I need soil tests in several areas.

One of these days I hope to get a full-blown professional soil test done by AgLabs. Their focus is on biological agriculture, not industrial agriculture.

Here's a List of Land-Grant Universities in the US.



  1. I've always used Logan Labs:

    This is the form showing what they test for:

    This test is $25. You don't get recommendations.

    I didn't look terribly hard on the AgLabs site, but could not find a list of what trace minerals they might test for. (Logan doesn't show either, in a cursory check.)

    1. Pam, I don't know either (although I intend to ask), but I've read lots of things by Jon Frank over the last 5 years via the Brix Forum on Yahoo. He impresses me.

      I've looked at Logan Labs, even have their forms.

    2. International Ag Labs tests for copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and calcium.

  2. If you ever get the chance to attend a seminar by John Kempf, I'd strongly recommend it. I've attended 2 of his, last year and one a couple weeks ago. Both times I came away with 30+ pages of notes and a huge amount of info. He really explains the science so you can understand Why! This is a big deal to me. Here's his website:

    1. Thanks. His name is not familiar so I'll look him up when I get back home tonight. Long day today, out of town.

  3. I've always hesitated to use the local extension because I didn't want them to know what I was up to (!) Besides the fact that I don't trust them due to the monsanto connection you point out.

    It's pretty bad when you feel like that! So is AG Lab and Logan Lab both independent of the govt.?


    1. As far as I know... they certainly don't follow what the extersion services spout.


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