February 15, 2019

It's Calendar Contest Time Again!

Have you enjoyed our customer photography calendars? Do You have photos to share? We are excited to announce that we are launching our third year of the customer photo calendar.  We want to see pictures that illustrate what fuels your passion for agriculture and customer service. When you get that picture captured, send it to news@algreatlakes.com along with your name, address, and brief note about the picture(s). Please submit your pictures in the highest resolution possible before August 1st, 2019. In August we will select our favorite pictures, then we will be letting our followers on Facebook vote on their favorite, to be on the cover of the 2020 calendar. Follow us on Facebook for voting details.


Photo criteria 

  • Landscape oriented photos preferred, but not required.
  • Please share the highest possible resolution photo.
  • Please try to avoid company logos and easily identifiable faces.
  • No dangerous or illegal activities.


  • Photo submission deadline is August 1st, 2019


  • One entry per person, however you may submit more than one photo.
  • Must be 18 years or older to enter.
  • Need not be present to win.
  • No purchase necessary.
  • Submitting a photo gives A&L Great Lakes permission to use the photo for promotional use.
  • Employees of A&L Great Lakes Laboratories, Inc. and their immediate families are not eligible for prizes, but may submit photos for consideration in the calendar.
  • Use of images in promotional items does not increase your odds of winning a prize.
  • Contest decisions and/or judgements by A&L Great Lakes Laboratories, Inc. are final.
November 30, 2018

Soil Sampling Lubricants

Fall weather is generally full of ups and downs. As the weather turns cooler and the wind picks up, many of you are rushing to complete last-minute soil sampling before the ground freezes. Cold and wet weather can complicate the sampling process, and can cause great frustration when samples begin to stick in the probe. However, using a lubricant can help to reduce the sticking of samples in the probe and make the process work a bit easier on the sampler.

A number of different lubricants have been evaluated over the years for their effectiveness as a sampling aid and their impact on the analysis results. Two of the most commonly recommended lubricants are either WD-40, or aerosol cooking sprays such as Pam. Either of these products act as a water dispersant, effectively creating a film on the metal that repels water and limits the sticking within the tube. From anecdotal evidence, WD-40 tends to be a bit more persistent on the probe than does cooking spray, and therefore tends to require less frequent application.

The effect of either material generally has a negligible effect on measured levels of macronutrients. There is some evidence that suggests micronutrient levels may be affected somewhat, but the effect is generally pretty minor. WD-40 tends to affect micronutrient levels less than cooking spray, so it is recommended when micronutrients are to be analyzed. This may be more significant in soils that are naturally low in micronutrients because the slight variation in levels will be a larger percentage of the total levels. However, if the use of lubricants results in better quality sample collection, the benefits of using a lubricant should greatly outweigh any potential for contamination from the lubricant itself.

November 30, 2018

It's Tradeshow Season!

Tradeshows offer a great opportunity to get out and talk to many of our customers, as well as to see what is new and exciting in the industry. We attend or exhibit at a number of tradeshows throughout the late fall and winter. Some of our upcoming shows include:


Date Location Tradeshow or Event
Dec. 4-6, 2018 Grand Rapids, MI The Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO 
Jan. 14-16, 2019 Lansing, MI Michigan Agribusiness Association (MABA) Winter Conference and Trade Show
Jan. 15-17, 2019 Madison, WI Wisconsin Agribusiness Classic - Wisconsin Agri-Business Association (WABA)
Jan. 15-17, 2019 Ft. Wayne, IN Fort Wayne Farm Show
Jan. 23-25, 2019 Indianapolis, IN Agribusiness Council of Indiana (ACI) Conference & EXPO
Jan. 28-30, 2019 Peoria, IL Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association (IFCA) Annual Convention and Trade Show
Jan. 28-31, 2019 Phoenix, AZ

Compost 2019 - U.S. Composting Council Conference and Trade Show

Jan 31-Feb. 1, 2019 Columbus, OH

 Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) Industry Conference


Please stop by and say hi!

November 30, 2018

2019 Soil Fertility Workshops Schedule

Dates and locations are set for the 2019 Soil Fertility Workshops. 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 eight workshops in January and February in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. For a complete list of dates and locations,  please visit our website.
September 28, 2018

2019 Calendar Photo Contest Winners Announced

Thank you to everyone that shared pictures for the 2019 A&L Great Lakes Customer Calendar, and to those who voted for their favorite on our Facebook site. Last year we were amazed by the quality of the photos we received, and this year that bar was raised even higher! This year we let the people have more of a say in the calendar design and left the winning photo selection to our followers on social media. The task was a difficult one as all of the pictures were incredible in their own way.

We are pleased to announce that Lydia Holste of Altamont, IL was our winner with a photo of a family dinner at harvest time. Lydia will receive $250 for her winning photo.


Second place went to Cary Crop Farms of Mount Pleasant, MI, with a picture of fall harvest. They will receive $150.


Third place was Paige Sullivan from Montgomery, IN, with a picture of a spider web at harvest time. Paige will receive $50.


These pictures and others will be published in the A&L Great Lakes 2019 calendar later this fall.

September 28, 2018

Nutrient Removal in Grain

A good understanding of the amount of plant nutrients removed from the soil in the harvested portion of a crop is an important aspect of nutrient management. While a number of sources provide estimates of the amount of plant nutrients removed with a harvested crop, more precise nutrient removal values can be obtained by analyzing the concentration of nutrients in the crop. This can be done by submitting grain samples for a Crop Nutrient Removal Analysis.

There are several factors that can cause the actual concentration of nutrients in a given crop to vary from the average, including weather conditions, plant genetics, management practices, and soil properties

Nutrient removal analysis is similar to other plant tissue analyses in which the material is dried, ground and digested so that the concentration of various nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, and various micronutrients can be determined for the sample. For grain samples, the results are then calculated and expressed as pounds per bushel based on a standard test weight and moisture content for a given crop. As with any other analysis, proper sample collection is crucial. For grain crops, collect a sample of grain that best represents the entire area, and submit 1 to 2 cups to the lab for analysis. Results will be presented on a pound per bushel and pounds per acre basis. The crop removal data can be reported based on the actual crop yield for the sampled area if the yield is provided for the submitted sample.

The utility of this type of analysis is not limited to grain samples. This data can be very useful for determining nutrient removal for other commodities such as fruits, vegetables, hay, straw, and silage. Since harvesting these crops often removes greater amounts of vegetative material and the concentration of nutrients in vegetative parts of a plant can be quite variable, nutrient removal values can differ considerably. To analyze for nutrient removal in these crops, submit 1 to 2 pounds of material for analysis.

Although considerable differences may exist between the results of a specific analysis and the reference values, this data is not intended to assess the fertility status of a crop or diagnose nutrient deficiencies. While nutrient removal data can be a valuable tool for managing soil fertility, it is only one piece of the puzzle. A good routine soil sampling plan remains the basis for a sound soil fertility program.


September 28, 2018

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.

August 31, 2018

Keep Your Samples Safe!

With the growing season winding down, many of you are beginning to think ahead to collecting fall soil samples. With the time and effort that you put into collecting those samples, we want to make sure that they arrive safe and sound, and in good condition. Following are some suggestions to ensure that your samples arrive safely and can be processed without delay.

  1. Use appropriate sample containers. Soil samples in paper envelopes and liquid samples in ziplock bags may be lost in shipment. We can provide you with the correct bags, bottles and boxes.
  2. Send a sample that is representative of the material you are testing. Very small and extremely large volumes of samples may affect the analysis results.
  3. Make sure all sample containers are closed and securely fastened. If a sample can spill… it will. 
  4. Include a sample submittal form that lists all of the sample information, reference information, tests requested, special information, and your account number. Submittal forms can be found at algreatlakes.com, or you can contact the laboratory.  
  5. Pack your box carefully. Using the sample submittal form as your packing order can help you identify when a sample is missing before you ship the box.
  6. Use a shipping box that is the right size. Small samples packed in large boxes can bounce around and be damaged in shipment.  Pack open spaces with crumpled newspaper.
  7. Use a shipping box that is rated for the weight that you’re shipping. We receive boxes each year which have broken apart from the weight of the samples.
  8. Protect your back – and ours. Avoid shipping overweight sample boxes.  Our chiropractor will thank you.
  9. Make sure your return address is on the shipping box – even if it is inside one of the box flaps. This can help determine who to contact in case of a problem.
  10. If you are shipping samples in multiple boxes, please mark the boxes 1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3… this will help the lab technicians get your boxes back together, and will help us determine if a box is missing in shipment.
August 31, 2018

Corn Stalk Nitrate Testing

The Corn Stalk Nitrate Test (CSNT) was developed by Iowa State University agronomists to determine if growers were using the proper amounts of nitrogen for corn production.  This is assessed by measuring the amount of nitrate - nitrogen present in the lower portion of the corn stalk around the time the plant reaches physiological maturity.  Corn plants suffering from inadequate N availability remove N from the lower cornstalks and leaves during the grain-filling period.  Corn plants that have more N than needed to attain maximum yields, however, accumulate nitrate in their lower stalks at the end of the season.  Several factors, including weather, can have a profound effect on the results of the test.


Samples should be collected between 1/4 milkline to 3 weeks after black layer has formed on 80% of the kernels of most ears.  Field test areas should not be larger than 10 acres.  Collect 15 stalks and remove an 8” segment between 6” and 14” above the soil.  Place in paper bag (not plastic). Refrigerate if delay in shipping is one or more days.  Do not freeze.



Less than 250 ppm

Indicates high probability that greater availability of N would have resulted in higher yields.  Visual signs of N deficiency are usually observed in this range.


250 - 700 ppm nitrate-N (ISU)

Producers should not be concerned when samples test in this range. N availability was close to the minimum amount needed for maximum yields but should not be the target for good nitrogen management.


250-2000 ppm nitrate-N (Purdue), 700-2000 ppm nitrate-N (ISU)

Indicates that N supplies were sufficient for maximum yields.


Greater than 2000 ppm nitrate-N

Indicates that N supplies were above levels needed to maximize profits.


The CSNT does not directly indicate how much a N application should be increased or decreased.  However, the use of this test consistently from year to year can be a valuable tool when adjusting N rates.  Since the development of this test, nitrogen prices have increased substantially, increasing the need for sound nitrogen management.  In addition, nitrogen in ground and surface waters can be a major environmental concern.  From both an environmental and an economic perspective, any tool that can help a grower manage nitrogen usage should be seriously considered.  Additional information on the corn stalk nitrate test can be found in our factsheet, “Corn Stalk Nitrate Test”, available on our website.

July 31, 2018

The Basics of Lime Testing

The majority of our soils in the Great Lakes region require regular liming in order to maintain pH levels that are within the appropriate range to maximize crop growth and productivity. The quality and effectiveness of a liming material can vary tremendously depending on the source, composition, and physical properties of the material, so having a reliable lime analysis is critical to ensure that the proper type and quantity of liming material is used to get the desired effect.

Agricultural lime quality is usually measured by three characteristics:

  1. Purity - commonly expressed as calcium carbonate equivalent (CCE)
  1. Particle size – finer particles react more quickly to raise soil pH
  1. Moisture – increases weight of the material without increasing effectiveness, essentially “diluting” the material

A number of materials can be used to increase the pH of the soil, but historically the most common material is ground limestone, commonly referred to as ag lime. Ag lime is finely ground rock containing high levels of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and magnesium carbonate (MgCO3). It is actually the carbonate (CO3-) in lime that reacts with acidity (hydrogen) to increase soil pH.

Calcium and magnesium in lime, in addition to being essential plant nutrients, exchange with hydrogen (H+) held on cation exchange sites, moving H+ into soil solution where it can be neutralized by carbonate.

Particle size determines how quickly lime will dissolve and react in the soil. Generally, 40-50% of the particles in a good quality liming material will pass through a 60-mesh sieve. States in this region have different lime quality systems, with state-specific terminology and measurements.

A&L Great Lakes offers a Fact Sheet, entitled Adjusting Lime Rates, which provides details on how to make adjustments. A & L Great Lakes has also developed a spreadsheet which outlines various states’ systems and helps adjust rates for a particular liming material. These useful tools are available from our website at www.algreatlakes.com.

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

Read More