May 31, 2017

Data Security

Laboratory data is an important and valuable asset. As an independent laboratory, it is important for us to assure our clients that their data remains their property, and that safeguards are in place to prevent information from being released to individuals not entitled to it.

We are occasionally requested by a client to send copies of reports or data files to someone else. We are very happy to do this, but are aware of the importance of this data. Our primary responsibility regarding the confidentiality of our reports is to our client that is invoiced for the services provided. That report may represent samples that were taken for a customer of our client, but the data is still the property of our client, not their customer.

In order to release data to another party, we require approval from an authorized representative of our client. The preferred method is by email or letter, but can be given via phone call if that is the most convenient. We recognize that this might be extra work for you, but we want to ensure that your information is protected.

If data is to be routinely copied to another party, information regarding this can be set up in our client database. If changes in client personnel or addresses occur, we need to be notified so that data is not sent to an incorrect address. Please contact the lab regarding your account if you need to verify or change who is authorized to receive your data.

May 31, 2017

Collecting Plant Tissue Samples

We put a great deal of effort and resources into ensuring quality with our analyses here at A&L Great Lakes Labs. We want the data that you receive from us to be of the highest quality so that it is of the most benefit to you and your operation. However, quality analysis is only one piece of the puzzle. Good quality data begins with a good quality sample, and how the sample is collected and handled after collection goes a long way to ensuring its usefulness.

Plant tissue testing can be a very valuable tool to use in your fertility program. However, there are a number of guidelines that should be followed to ensure that this information is useful to you.

  1. Sample the correct part of the plant. The interpretations of plant tissue analysis have been developed based on a particular part of the plant, and that part can vary based on the crop and growth stage of the crop. For more information, please refer to our Plant Analysis Sampling Guide, available from our website.

 

  1. Collect enough sample for analysis. The amount of sample to collect can also be found in the Plant Analysis Sampling GuideThe amount of material listed is generally a guideline to help ensure that the sample is representative, but is not a minimum requirement.

 

  1. If the samples are extremely dirty, shake off any excess dirt or gently wipe the samples off. Washing of samples is generally discouraged, as this can affect the potassium (K) content of the material. If you do choose to wash the samples, do so soon after sampling and before shipping to the lab to reduce these losses as much as possible.

 

  1. Place the samples into PAPER bags, never plastic! Paper bags allow the samples to breathe and preserve the integrity of the sample.

 

  1. Include a completed Plant Tissue Submittal Form with your samples. Complete the form as thoroughly as possible to ensure that your report is accurate. Be sure to indicate the plant type and growth stage on the submittal form.

 

  1. Pack the samples loosely into a box, and ship them to the lab as soon as possible. It is generally best to ship the samples so that they arrive at the lab within 2 days (samples shipped via UPS Ground generally arrive within two days when shipped from anywhere in the Great Lakes region). It is best to ship samples Monday-Wednesday, to reduce the possibility of samples being in transit over the weekend.

If you have any questions about plant tissue analysis, please contact your A&L Great Lakes regional agronomist or call the lab at 260-483-4759 and we will be happy to assist you!

May 26, 2017

Nitrogen Management with Replant or Thin Corn Stands

While talking to agronomists from all over the Great Lakes Region, we have heard questions focused on nitrogen loss, population counts, and how late various corn maturities can be planted, but might we be missing the key questions to maximizing profitability of the 2017 corn crop. It is time to take a hard look at our nitrogen plans and adjust them for reality.

The target corn yield of 200+ bu/acre of April may not be a realistic yield goal with the delayed planting. One positive thing about reduced yield goals because of late planting, replanting, or reduced stand populations is that the nitrogen required to achieve this adjusted lower yield goal is likely also reduced. Early spring preplant and starter nitrogen has likely been subject to loss due to the wet conditions, but has the loss of nitrogen exceeded the loss of yield potential? Most likely no, and if you have plans to side-dress, be certain to adjust your nitrogen rates for you new yield goals.

With pre-plant nitrogen, utilize soil nitrate and ammonium tests to monitor fields that might be at risk. One benefit to late planted corn is that side dress nitrogen applications will also be delayed, usually into a period with weather conditions that have a lower risk of nitrogen loss, thus leading to potentially greater nitrogen use efficiency. Help from your Regional A&L Great Lakes Agronomist is only a phone call away!

April 27, 2017

Gearing Up for PSNT

Nitrogen is the most elusive nutrient to manage and, when deficient, will significantly limit yield potential to a point that profits are lost. Having the right amount of nitrogen available at the right time is essential to achieving profitability.

A corn plant uses around 10% of the nitrogen it needs during the first three weeks of growth. Then, during the next five weeks (V4 to V18), it needs to take up 65% of its total seasonal nitrogen requirement. If nitrogen supply is limited during this period, yield and profits will suffer. Taking a pre-sidedress nitrate test (PSNT) at the V4-V5 stage indicates how much nitrogen is available in the soil from cover crops, legumes, applied manure and other organic sources.

Timing is very important; samples should be taken five to ten days before sidedressing to allow time to collect the sample, have it analyzed and receive the results. Samples taken too early will not be as accurate because nitrogen is continually released (mineralized) in the spring as the soil warms.

A&L Great Lakes analyzes PSNT samples and reports results the next business day after receipt. PSNT soil samples should represent no more than 20 acres. The sampled area should be consistent for past crop, soil types and manure applications. Sample the soil 12 inches deep, taking 15 to 20 cores per field. Avoid probing through the starter band. If fields have significantly differing soil types or drainage patterns, sample these areas separately. In addition, it is generally not recommended that these samples be analyzed as a part of a basic soil test, because of the differences in recommended sampling depth.

More information on the PSNT, including information on sampling and sample handling, is outlined in our PSNT Fact Sheet, which is available from our website.

April 27, 2017

A Breath of Fresh Air

What is the most effective and dramatic way to clean up an area?  Renovate, replace and redecorate.  Keeping our instrumentation and computer equipment on the cutting edge has always been a priority at A & L Great Lakes Laboratories, but our work areas often get left behind.

The old office furniture, installed more than 25 years ago, served us well, but had outlived its useful life, and was badly in need of repair and refreshment. We began by removing the old furniture, flooring, and ceiling tiles.

 

A fresh coat of paint, new flooring, and replacing the ceiling tiles made everything look a lot better!

The project was finished off with new, modern office furniture to better meet the needs of our staff to ensure that they are better able to serve our customers.

We invite you to check these spaces out the next time you are at the laboratory.  The completed project has been rewarding as many employees were not afraid to get their hands dirty and assisted with demolition and painting.  Great pride and ownership has been taken of these areas and will serve our employees and guests well for many years to come.

April 27, 2017

Employee Spotlight: Meet Patti Knuth

Patti has been with us for almost 30 years of combined service (she took a short 4 year break 12 years ago). She is the voice of our company-- chances are if you have called us, you have talked to her.

She started in the lab, analyzing plants, feeds, and manures. Now she answers customer questions and helps with issues. She loves our customers. When asked what her favorite part of her job is, she said pleasing customers. What a great ambassador to have in our customer service role!

In her spare time, she likes to ride her bike on the Fort Wayne Trails and you can often catch her at the Trek The Trails events on Tuesday nights throughout the summer.

March 31, 2017

Spring Sampling Considerations

We frequently get the question at the lab; “When is the best time to take a soil sample?”  Soil fertility is not static.  Soil test levels fluctuate naturally through the year as nutrients are taken up by growing plants and returned from residue.  Application of fertilizer, manure or other nutrient sources increases the amount of crop nutrients, causing soil test levels to increase immediately after application.  During the growing season, soil test levels will decline as nutrients are taken up by plants.  Overall, if the application rate approximates crop needs there will be a minimal effect after nutrients in crop residues or cover crop are returned to the soil through decomposition. To minimize the effects of these processes on soil test levels, it is commonly recommended that soil samples be collected at approximately the same time of year each time a field is sampled to reduce variability introduced by the normal crop growing cycle.

While the results of a single soil test can provide information needed to define the fertility program for a given area for the coming set number of years, the real value comes from looking at the data collected from several sampling events, taken at a similar point during the growing cycle, and identifying the trends in the soil test values.  For example, if a soil sample is collected and the resulting data shows a lower than desired fertility level, we may need to apply more fertilizer for the next crop.  If soil test values increase toward a target level over sampling cycles, it indicates the fertility program is working as intended.  The fertility program would need to be adjusted if soil test levels are trending lower or higher than intended.

Traditionally, fall has been the most popular time within this region to soil sample, with nutrient application made soon after.  Fall soil sampling and fertilizer application requires several steps:

  • Field is harvested
  • Service provider contacted about sampling the field
  • Service provider coordinates soil sample collection
  • Samples are collected
  • Samples sent/delivered to the lab
  • Samples processed and analyzed by the lab
  • Soil test results sent to the service provider
  • Soil test results used to generate fertility recommendations
  • Fertilizer ordered and tendered to the field
  • Fertilizer is spread
  • Fertilizer incorporated if tilled

With many steps condensed into a short time period and with often less than ideal weather forecasts, things must happen quickly.  The soil fertility program is a critical investment that has a major impact on a grower's bottom line, and making decisions related to the program should be done with great care.  It is hard to optimize a rushed management decision.  

More are switching to spring soil sampling to reduce this time crunch.  Samples can be collected throughout the spring, even in the planted crop.  Soil test data can be processed so that fertilizer and lime applications can occur immediately after harvest.  Crop conditions and weather during the growing season can be also evaluated to further refine soil fertility programs. There is considerable value to sampling well ahead of the fertilizer application season, providing time and flexibility to make better fertilizer management and purchasing decisions.
March 31, 2017

Monitoring 28% and UAN Solutions

UAN (urea-ammonium-nitrate) solutions are routinely applied in the late spring and early summer to deliver nitrogen (N) to young crops. Because UAN is a nonpressurized solution, it can be used without the hazards associated with anhydrous ammonia and can be spread more uniformly than granular fertilizer. Certain pesticides may also be added, eliminating an extra pass through the field. UAN solutions are usually manufactured with a 32% N analysis, transported nearer the point of use, and then diluted (“cut”) to 28% or 30% N with water or a nutrient rich solution such as ammonium sulfate. The N analysis of UAN solutions is monitored throughout the supply chain to assure quality and consistency. A hydrometer is commonly used to check the N analysis of solutions, estimating the N content by solution density. A hydrometer reading will vary with the temperature of the solution. Nitrogen and density values will differ by source of 32% UAN solution.

The density of a cutting solution should also be considered when making dilutions. The density of ammonium sulfate (AMS) solution is usually higher than water, and can vary by source. For example, if a hydrometer reading is 1.28 g/cc for a UAN solution that was diluted with water to 28% N, diluting the same UAN solution to that density with AMS would result in a product with only 26% N. The UAN density corresponding to a given N content must be adjusted when diluting with a solution other than water. A hydrometer calibration (chart) can be developed using laboratory analyses of N, S and specific gravity on the various solutions (UAN, AMS, etc.) and mixtures that might be used. Once a calibration is developed, hydrometer readings, adjusted for temperature, can approximate the N content of the UAN solution. Periodic laboratory analyses should be performed to update the hydrometer calibration since the density of new UAN and cutting solutions can change.

March 31, 2017

Employee Spotlight: Meet Alexis Gutierrez

Lexi is a lab technician in the fertilizer department. In this role, she tests different fertilizers for various elements and creates reports so that our clients can make better decisions about their fertilizer usage. She also does quality analysis for fertilizer companies.

She earned her Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from Manchester University. She has been full time with us since April 2016. She enjoys working with test tubes and beakers, and really likes the color changes that occur through the different tests she administers. She also likes the family-feel of the culture here.

In her spare time, she likes to spend time with her son who is just shy of 2 years old.

March 31, 2017

Effective Herbicide Use Starts at the Tap

Herbicide resistant weeds are an ever-growing concern in production agriculture. One of the quickest ways to encourage weeds to develop resistance to a herbicide chemistry is to use less than the labeled rates of that herbicide. Knowing this, very few applicators will use less than labeled herbicide rates. However, what if an applicator is effectively applying less than labeled rates unknowingly due to the quality of their spray water?

 

This University of Florida extension article discusses how spray water chemistry impacts the performance of flumioxazin, a key ingredient in the effective control of herbicide resistant marestail. We offer two spray water analysis packages to help you identify the challenges with your spray water so you to make the most effective applications possible.

 http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pi193

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