February , 2006
Raymond C. Ward, Ph.D
Jolene F. Ward, B.S
Ward’s Internal and External “Checks” Insure Accuracy of
For producers that grow alfalfa in the Great Plains and sell the product to dairies in the east, the Relative Feed Value (RFV) of that alfalfa is important. And, because of that, the professionals at Ward Laboratories, Inc. take great pains to insure the accuracy of their forage tests.
According to Dr. Ray Ward, President of Ward Laboratories, Inc., the credibility of the lab’s 23 year existence and his personal history of 45 years in agricultural testing is on the line with every sample the lab conducts.
“Needless to say, we take the responsibility of providing the most accurate test results possible for our customers very seriously. To that end, we routinely monitor our equipment and results to insure a quality lab result is provided for each sample we analyze,” Dr. Ward said.
In determining accuracy of RFV results, Ward Laboratories have a number of internal and external checks. First, Ward Laboratories is a member of National Forage Testing Association, where each member laboratory is certified by meeting strict standards for testing procedures, equipment and results. Presently, Ward Laboratories’ RFV test results are only slightly higher than the median for all labs in the association, Dr. Ward said.
Secondly, Ward Laboratories is an active member of the NIRS Forage and Feed Testing Consortium, an organization dedicated to enhancing the accuracy and knowledge of NIRS testing.
The consortium actually provides participating laboratories with the equations used to analyze NIRS samples assuring there is no bias in the ultimate test results.
Further, as a consortium member, every Monday Ward Laboratories sends NIRS machine “specs” to the Madison, Wisconsin headquarters for an analysis to be sure the equipment is working properly. Each year approximately 30 standard samples sent to Madison from the NIRS Consortium are analyzed to determine if any machine adjustments need made.
Finally, Ward Laboratories makes daily checks of samples to determine the tests accuracy. According to Molly Reese, a 9 year veteran of Ward Laboratories who runs the NIRS testing, a daily sample of alfalfa and corn provided by the consortium is analyzed. The results of those tests are then entered into a computer program where results can be analyzed. Test results that are outside an acceptable range can be flagged and ultimately corrected, Ms. Reece said.
Moreover, in the last 15 years, Ward Laboratories has conducted NIRS testing on more than 170,000 feed and forage samples from Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.
So, Dr. Ward concludes, the company’s long track record and extensive internal and external monitoring of equipment and results, insure producers can be confident in the RFV results they receive from Ward Laboratories.
New “Cutting Edge” Technology Equipment Designed For More Accurate, Faster Results
Several new pieces of equipment, including one piece designed especially for Ward Laboratories, Inc., allow for more accurate and faster results.
According to laboratory manager Duane Osmanski, Ward Laboratories, Inc. has made significant investments in new testing equipment with the customer in mind.
One of those new pieces of equipment has been dubbed an “Organic Matter Robot” by lab personnel since the machine was built specifically for Ward Laboratories by Lignin in Albequerque, New Mexico, who never named the one of a kind piece of equipment.
The “robot” is used to determine the organic matter in soil samples and looks like something you’d see in a futuristic sci-fi movie. The “robot’s” purpose is to weigh 1/2 ounce crucibles or containers of soil as one of the first steps in determining the organic matter content of a soil sample.
The machine has two “arms” that pick up the crucibles containing dried soil samples, which are then placed on two balances for weighing. Within seconds, two samples are weighed to four decimal points, which provides the basis for the ultimate test results. Weighing each crucible of soil to four decimal points provides a significantly greater degree of accuracy.
The weighed soil samples are then heated in a muffle furnace to 360° C to burn off all organic matter leaving minerals, inorganic clays and sands. The samples are weighed again with the difference in the two weights being the organic matter of the sample.
Osmanski said the “robot” not only speeds up the whole process but it provides a more consistent and accurate result since there is no human interaction with the test. With an average of 1300 soil tests run daily, the time savings are significant, he added.
A second piece of equipment does have a name but has been called a “life saver” by lab professionals. Built by Lab Fit, Pty. of Australia, the AS3000 helps determine the pH level in soil.
Osmanski said the pH test is one of the most important tests the lab runs and the consistency and speed that the AS3000 offers has been extremely helpful in insuring timely, accurate lab results.
Soil samples are placed in 3 ounce plastic cups and allowed to set at room temperature for 30 minutes after water is added. The AS3000 features multiple arms with sensor probes that automatically test each sample. Osmanski said the machine automatically tests 180 samples per hour, the same time it took two technicians to conduct the test before purchase of the machine. And, the new machine takes away any possibility of technician error. Ward laboratories has two of the AS3000 instruments and hopes to conduct as many as 2,000 pH tests per day by next year.
Finally, Ward Laboratories has added another machine to its sophisticated arsenal of testing equipment with the Ankom, designed to test crude fiber in feed and forage samples. And, like other new equipment at Ward Laboratories, the Ankom allows more samples to be tested and meets new lab industry standards for better accuracy.
Feed samples are placed in a porous bag in preparation for the test. The Ankom then automatically adds acid to the sample, mixes and stirs the sample and then rinses the sample. The machine essentially rinses out non-fiborous material or the energy portion of the feed. The sample is dried, weighed and then heated to 600° C which burns off everything but the ash, so the crude fiber will be accurate.
Osmanski said this new instrument gives alfalfa and feed producers better information faster which will allow them to adjust feed rations for more and better weight gain in livestock.
ABC’s of Nitrogen Management
By Dr. Ray Ward, Certified Soil Scientist
In a producer’s hectic world of constant deadlines, fast paced technology and rapidly changing environmental conditions, it seems appropriate, every now and then, to step back for a second, slow down a hair and take another look at some of the most basic components of agricultural production.
With that in mind, let’s take a moment for a quick refresher course on nitrogen management with the goal of enhancing your production decisions as spring planting approaches.
Discussion about fertilizer management would begin with the cost of N since it is one of the most expensive, yet most important production inputs. To begin, one must know the amount of N in the type of fertilizer you utilize … 82% N is anhydrous ammonia, 46% N in urea, 28-32% in UAN and 21% in Ammonia Sulfate.
The next step is to determine pounds of N in a ton of fertilizer. For anhydrous, multiply .82 (the amount of N in anhydrous) x 2000 (ton of anhydrous) which results in 1,640 of N per ton. If your current cost for a ton of ammonia is $550, simply divide the $550 by the 1,640 lbs. resulting in a cost per pound of N of 33 cents.
And, since the cost of fertilizer is a major input to production agriculture, it’s critical to maximize its use. To best utilize your fertilizer, soil samples need to be analyzed to determine the amount of N that is present in your soil. Soil samples should be taken from 0-6 inches and 0-8 inches and from 6-36 and 8-36 inches to get an accurate read of your N needs. Soil samples to 36” deep measure residual nitrate in the root zone. The nitrate present in the root zone is as good as N fertilizer.
Once the nutrient value of your soil is determined, calculations can be made to determine the amount of fertilizer needed to maximize your yields. A good rule of thumb is 1.2-1.3 pounds of N is required per bushel of yield for corn and milo wheat requires 2.0-2.4 pounds of N to produce a bushel.
Further, it is important to include an application of phosphate to maximize yields. A Tribune, Kansas study of corn yields since 1961 clearly illustrates the importance of phosphate with well calculated nitrogen applications.
|Nitrogen in lbs.
|2004 Corn Yields, BU/A without
|2004 Corn Yield, BU/A with Phosphorus|
|Phosphorus = 40lbs. P205/A per year since 1961.|
Worth Noting …
… In November, Dr. Ray Ward received the first ever 2005 Soil Science Industry Award from the Soil Science Society of America. Dr. Ward was honored for his efforts to enhance and advance the soil science industry nationwide. The presentation was made at the group’s annual national conference in Salt Lake City.
… If you are looking for an “educated” group of professionals, consider the 34 employees of Ward Laboratories. Collectively, the employees have 23 years of service in agricultural testing and hold associate, bachelors and advance degrees from South Dakota State University, University of Nebraska Lincoln, Central Community College, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Colorado State University, Wayne State College and Dubuque University.
… Last year alone, Ward Laboratories conducted professional analyses on 185,300 soil, feed, water, forage, manure and plant samples. In the last 10 years, the Kearney, Nebraska laboratory has conducted 1.4 million tests for clients across the United States and from several foreign countries.
Test Results, Archives Data, Even Bill Payment Now Available From Ward Laboratories, Inc.
Already recognized as one of the most progressive agricultural testing laboratories in the nation, Ward Laboratories, Inc. in Kearney, Nebraska continues to make strides insuring even greater customer service and satisfaction.
Those progressive strides are most present in Ward Laboratories’ delivering of test results electronically.
Ward Laboratories can provide email test results to their customers as soon as the test is completed and analyzed, said Dr. Ray Ward, president of Ward Laboratories and a certified soil scientist.
Dr. Ward explained that test results are emailed to customers as a PDF and as a text file. The PDF file looks just like the “hard copies” of results the laboratory mails out to customers. Further, the emailed results have headers so an individual can pull the data they want easily to fit their particular program.
In most cases, NIR test results are emailed to customers the day they are received, with one day service on water, plant and manure samples and two day service for feed and soil samples.
Further, Ward Laboratories’ system allows customers to retrieve archive or historical data on their test results on line as well. In most cases, producers can retrieve their test results from two years ago through the Ward System and even longer than two years ago if requested. For some customers, Ward Laboratories has results available from 1996.
To access historical test results, a customer would go to www.wardlab.com and click “on line test results” on the right side of the home page.
Further, many Ward Laboratory customers are paying for their test results with MasterCard, Visa or debit cards at no additional charge. For security reasons, call Ward Laboratories at 1-800-887-7645 if you would like to set up an account for paying bills at Ward Laboratories by Visa or MasterCard.