A Day in the Life of a Soil Sample: Day 3

In previous articles, we shared Day 1 and  Day 2 of our 3-part series in A Day in the Life of a Soil Sample.

Day 3 begins with data from the previous days analysis being compiled into spreadsheets for quality control review.  The quality control review is conducted by a QC team consisting of a quality control chemist and quality assurance chemist.

The first spreadsheet contains the results of all known, blind, and equipment checks that were analyzed.  These check samples account for approximately 10% of total samples.  From this data, it can be determined if there were any instrument or technician errors throughout the process.  A second spreadsheet reports any potential “problem” samples that do not meet a predetermined set of criteria.  The third spreadsheet contains all data from that day’s analysis.  This spreadsheet is thoroughly examined line by line to identify any unusual patterns or anomalies in the data, for both individual and groups of samples.  Problem samples identified in the review process are also compared to the surrounding samples to determine if an error may have occurred in the testing process.  Samples requiring reanalysis are identified, and a list is sent to the appropriate technician for reanalysis.  When the analytical data passes the quality control review, it is approved and available for review by our Agronomists.

Our Agronomists review reports using a multi-screen computer application to view a pdf version of the final report alongside a scanned copy of the original submittal form sent with the soil samples.  An Agronomist will first do a clerical check to ensure that the report is assigned to the correct account, that there are no spelling errors on manually entered information, and check that the customer is receiving the soil tests that they requested.

Agronomists then check the data to ensure that the analyses for a sample reasonably complement one another.  If the Agronomist cannot rationalize the result based on the data or their experience with the soil in the region, the report is held for further investigation.  An Agronomist’s first option is to check the physical sample to determine if there are any visual differences between the samples to explain the results.  If the Agronomist is still not confident in the result, the sample is returned to the QC team for reanalysis of the questionable data.  Once the Agronomist is confident that the results accurately represent the sample that we received, the report receives its final approval.

Once soil test data is approved, it is sent to our electronic reporting system.  The data will be used to generate a pdf report and any data exports required by the customer for import into precision ag software.  These data files are then automatically e-mailed to the customer. In some cases, the data is automatically transferred to the precision ag software for the customer to access immediately.  All data formats, pdf reports, and an electronic copy of the original submittal form can be uploaded to eDocs, our file management system,  where the information can be accessed at any time.

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