Soil biological testing at Ward Laboratories is conducted by analyzing phospholipid fatty acids, or PLFA. PLFA gives a representation of living soil microbial biomass and allows us to identify the presence or absence of various functional groups of interest through known PLFA biomarkers. PLFA is a snapshot of soil community structure and abundance at the time of sampling. As environmental conditions such as temperature and moisture change so does the microbial community. This ability of the soil microbial community to change provides producers with a tool to compare agricultural management techniques with respect to overall better microbial community health.
The Haney Test is a dual extraction procedure that allows the producer to assess overall soil health. The test is used to track changes in soil health based on management decisions. This test examines total organic carbon and total organic nitrogen to determine a C:N ratio used to make general cover crop recommendations. This test also includes a 24 hour CO2 soil respiration test to look at microbial biomass and potentially mineralizable nitrogen. The weak acid (H3A) extraction represents some available plant nutrients.
The Solvita CO2 Burst Test is a new tool which easily and accurately measures soil biological CO2 respiration. (Solvita.com, 2012)