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 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 or the following spring.  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

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.

January 30, 2017

Picture This

Here at A&L Great Lakes Laboratories, we want to know what inspires you. As we reflect on our first 40 years of business, we consider those thing that inspire us; our passion for science, the commitment to our customers, our dedication to agriculture and our small but important role in feeding the world.

Photo Submitted by Adam Farmer

We know that you are inspired to go the extra mile, to work the extra hours, to give a little more for that greater purpose. We would like for you to share a glimpse of that inspiration. We are asking you to share a photo that captures that inspiration. Some of the photos collected will be featured in the 2018 ALGL calendar, on our website, and in other materials. Each person that submits a photo will be entered one time into a drawing for some great prizes, sold and serviced by companies that are driven to be the best, not necessarily the biggest.

The prizes include an Ithaca Gun Company 12ga Shotgun, SK Tools, Ruby Jewelry, A&L Great Lakes apparel, and more to be announced. Full contest details can be found on our website at

Follow us on Facebook to see the submitted photos and developments in the contest throughout the summer, and please keep the pictures coming in!
January 30, 2017

Soil Fertility Workshops – A Legacy of Being Your Trusted Advisor

Since A&L Great Lakes Laboratories was established forty years ago, providing educational opportunities to our customers and the agricultural industry has been a service that we have been proud to offer. The goal of our workshops is simple: we provide a general overview of fundamental agronomic principles and current university research so our attendees are better able to make nutrient management decisions for their customers or for their own operations. Today’s producers are inundated with information regarding crop inputs and practices. By applying the fundamental principles of agronomy to these inputs and practices, a consultant, agricultural retailer, or producer can evaluate and decide which of those are most applicable for achieving both the short-term and long-term goals of a specific operation.

The workshops are developed and presented by A&L Great Lakes Laboratories’ Agronomy Staff comprised of Certified Crop Advisers, Certified Professional Agronomists, and Certified Professional Soil Scientists whom have a wide range of experience in the agricultural industry.

We will be presenting six workshops in February in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. For a complete list of dates and locations,  please visit our website.
January 30, 2017

2016 Soil Test Data Summaries Now Available!

The 2016 Soil Test Data Summaries for the Great Lakes region are now available on our website. The summaries are compiled for the Great Lakes region as a whole, as well as broken down by state and into geographic quadrants within each state.

The Soil Test Summaries are valuable tools that provide the average soil test levels for a given region, as well as the distribution of soils by rating. This data can be used by growers and advisors alike to identify regions where soil test levels tend to be low or high for a given nutrient, and can allow them to better focus their soil sampling and nutrient management priorities.

A&L Great Lakes has been providing soil test summaries since 1996, and the information provided has been used by countless agricultural professionals ever since.

November 22, 2016

Agronomists in the Classroom

People are often compelled to give back, especially when their lives have been enriched by a life impacting experience. This is very true for Jamie Bultemeier, the Corporate Sales Director at A&L Great Lakes. His exposure to agronomy at Purdue University sparked more than a career path; it lit a passion for agriculture. As a way of giving back, Jamie partnered with a former college classmate Jeff Bradford to teach a four-week precision ag module during Dr. Lee Schweitzer’s Agronomy 598, a senior capstone class for agronomy students. The four-week module included about 20 hours of instruction on GIS fundamentals, GIS software, GPS equipment, and evaluation of GPS based agronomic data such as variable rate seeding and fertilization.

Dr. Schweitzer has been teaching and facilitating a key set of agronomy fundamental courses since 1980 that focus as much on preparing the student for their career as teaching agronomic facts. Industry involvement in the educational process is key for agronomy undergraduate students, helping students to make those first networking contacts and get a real world perspective of the agronomy industry that they are about to enter.

Jamie is just one of the many leaders in the agronomy industry that can trace their career success back to being a student in Dr. Schweitzer’s classes. Jamie noted, “As a young FFA member I participated in the Agronomy Contests, several held at Purdue and hosted by Purdue faculty, including Dr. Schweitzer, and it was through those events that I realized I had a knack for agronomy. I was good at it, and Purdue University Agronomy Department was where I wanted to study. I hope that through the opportunity to share my nearly 20 years of experience in the precision agronomy industry, I might inspire another student to push themselves farther than even they thought they could go.” Spend just a few hours with Jamie, and you will soon realize that his passion for agriculture and agronomy that was fostered at Purdue is evident in everything that he does, from his work at A&L Great Lakes Laboratories to his own farming operation.

November 22, 2016

A Few More Blessings to Count

As they often do during the Thanksgiving holiday season, our thoughts turn to those things in our lives that we are thankful for.  It is fairly easy to come up with a basic list such as food, family and other obvious items.  However, this year I wanted to offer a different take on Thankfulness, a departure from the norm.  Is it possible to be thankful for those things that we might not normally think about during this time? 

How much more might our lives be enriched if we were thankful:

  • When the answers are elusive ... for it gives us the opportunity to learn.
  • For tough times in our lives ... during those times we can grow.
  • When we make a mistake ... it may teach us a valuable lesson.
  • For the clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means we have enough to eat.
  • For sore, aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means we have been capable of working hard.
  • For problems and challenges... they can build strength and character.
  • For the taxes that we pay, because it means that we are gainfully employed.
  • For people who sing off key, because it means that we can hear.
  • When we're tired and weary ... because it means we've given our all.

When I think back over this past year, I am grateful to lead a great team of scientists, agronomists and laboratory staff who are dedicated to providing you, our customer, with the highest quality data and customer service in the industry.  We have encountered many challenges and have learned from them.  Our processes are constantly being evaluated to improve quality.  We have learned, grown, built our strength and character, and experienced weariness from giving our all this busy season.

But mostly I’m thankful to you, our customers, who partner with us and without whom we would cease to exist.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.



Greg Neyman, Vice-President/COO

October 31, 2016

Fertilizer Analysis Monitoring

When fertilizer is applied to a field its nutrient analysis should match what is claimed on the fertilizer product label (ex. 28% nitrogen).  This means that the buyer gets what they want and pay for, and the supplier is paid for what they delivered.  This is almost always the case, but there are situations where there is a discrepancy.

When a fertilizer is offered for sale at any point in the supply chain (manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler or retailer) the seller and buyer need to be confident of the fertilizer analysis.  Samples are often collected and either immediately analyzed or retained in case a question arises.

We recommend each incoming load of fertilizer be sampled.  If the material is different from previous shipments (ex. color) it should be communicated to the supplier and a sample immediately sent for analysis.  Retain samples of normal-appearing materials in case a future question arises.  The length of sample retention is unique to each situation, but likely should be at least until the current crop is harvested.

Collection of fertilizer samples can be challenging, especially with bulk deliveries.  The state’s fertilizer inspector can provide procedures for sampling of various fertilizers:  liquid, granular, bulk, bagged, etc.  When your facility is being inspected it is a good practice to ask the inspector to provide you with a sample collected at the same time as the one they will have analyzed.  Should their sample show the fertilizer does not match the label the retained sample can be analyzed to independently confirm the analysis.

Retained fertilizer samples should be stored in air-tight containers to prevent moisture entry and spills.  Small 4-8 ounce plastic bottles work well for liquid fertilizers.  Solid fertilizers can be stored in zip-lock bags – compress the bag to remove air and then place in another bag.  Keep retained samples in a controlled temperature area.

October 31, 2016

Partnership – It’s a Sustainable Thing!

A&L Great Lakes Laboratories takes great pride in helping out our Fort Wayne community.  One of the organizations for which we raise charitable funds for during the year is the Fort Wayne Community Urban Farmers.  They provide fresh vegetables to many local agencies that prepare meals for the underserved population of homeless individuals, low-income senior citizens and children.  Agencies like soup kitchens, group homes, residential treatment programs and homeless shelters all benefit from the Urban Farmers program.

In addition, they have been working to establish an Urban 4-H program in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Club of Fort Wayne to teach young people the importance of self-sufficiency through gardening.

Below is an article that recently ran in the local Fort Wayne News Sentinel about the program:

September 30, 2016

OABA Honors Tim Bailey

On August 17th, retired A&L Great Lakes agronomist Tim Bailey was honored at the Ohio Agribusiness Association’s 2016 Educational Trust golf outing.  Tim has been a dependable presence at OABA events and is well deserving of the honor.  Tim has a passion for learning the science of agronomy as well as teaching and helping those around him.  Tim also has another reason to celebrate.  He and his wife Kathy have recently become grandparents to a baby girl - Grace Elizabeth Shawn Bailey.  We at A&L Great Lakes Laboratories offer Tim our congratulations and best wishes!  To read more, check out the OABA Scholarship Golf Outing flyer.

Relationships. They’re the most important things we help grow.