April 28, 2016

Changing Faces

Welcome Steven Piercy to the full time staff of A & L Great Lakes Laboratory.  Steven is not new to our team; he actually began working for us in the fall of 2014 as temporary help for our soil season and continued in the plant room last summer.  He has great versatility and can work in many areas of our laboratory.

New A&L employee Steven Piercy working in the lab

His primary focus will be analyzing soil pH and performing germinations for compost analysis.  He resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana and is pursuing a degree from Purdue University.

The opportunity for Steven to join our staff comes with the departure of Le Matha, who had been with us since 2012.  Le is pursuing his love of nature and the culinary arts in Yellowstone National Park.  He will now have many opportunities to fish as he works for the US Parks in the kitchens of resorts within the park.  He too was a valued employee who is missed. We wish them both great success in their new endeavors.

April 14, 2016

How Does Your Compost Stack Up?

A&L Great Lakes Laboratories, Inc. receives many calls relating to compost quality.  Frequently the question is somehow related to:  “How can I tell if my compost report numbers are good or not?”  The answer can vary depending on what the client is using the compost for and if there is an EPA, state, county, or municipal requirement that must be met.  Sometimes the compost is mixed in with soil or other material to make a blend which is governed by private engineering or governmental regulations, such as DOT (Department of Transportation) specifications.  All of this can lead to confusion, especially to the end consumer.  The US Composting Council has provided some very useful guides outlining the “preferred” and “acceptable” ranges of compost for different consumer uses.  Below is an example guide for use in a Flower and Vegetable Garden:

 
Table of Compost Parameters

 

While these guidelines provide excellent direction for evaluating compost quality, government and engineering specifications do not always align exactly with the US Composting Council’s ranges.  The laboratory has analyzed composts that are perfectly good and viable (as a growing medium), and within all the USCC’s recommended ranges, but failed to meet a specific engineering specification.  This can be very frustrating for the compost producer.  In one particular instance, the lab tested compost that met all the human safety requirements (Bacteria and EPA 503 Heavy Metals), plants grew well in it, and it was mature.  In addition, the nutrient content, pH and soluble salt levels were spot on. However, it still failed to meet a specification because the organic matter was 20%, which was considered too low.  In this example, the engineer was creating a blend that required a minimum organic matter content and, if using the planned blending recipe, the final blend would not have met their specifications.  Rather than invalidate this compost, an alternative was to change the blending recipe by increasing the amount of the compost used to achieve a blend that would have met the specs. Another alternative would have been to evaluate the specifications of the final blend to determine if the specified minimum organic matter content was actually necessary to meet the needs for this situation.
 
A number of different compost parameters can be analyzed, but some parameters are more important in different situations than others. For example, nutrients, fecal coliform and heavy metals may be important for composts that contain animal manures or biosolids and that might be land applied, while sieve size, odor presence, organic matter content and weed seed viability may be important to landscapers.  Also, where quantifying the concentration of man-made materials such as glass, plastic, and metal, may be appropriate for yard trimmings compost, it may not be appropriate for biosolids or food by-product compost.
 
A PDF document entitled “Compost Characteristics and Their Importance,” as well as a basic A&L Great Lakes Laboratories Compost “FACT SHEET” are available to help you understand compost data better.  If you are interested in receiving either of these publications, or would like to discuss your particular compost or composting project, please contact Greg Neyman gregn@algreatlakes.com.

March 31, 2016

Focus on the Next Generation

The staff at A&L Great Lakes works together as a team to support local and regional charities and programs as part of the ongoing commitment of the Benevolence Committee to support worthy causes. In addition to the work of the Benevolence Committee, many of the staff members reach out on their own to support worthy causes.  

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March 22, 2016

2015 Soil Test Data Summaries Now Available!

The 2015 Soil Test Data Summaries for the Great Lakes region are now available on our website at www.algreatlakes.com/pages/2015-soil-test-summaries. 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.

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December 08, 2015

A&L Great Lakes Sets New Direction

Today at the Great Lakes Expo, A&L Great Lakes Laboratories, an elite provider of agricultural testing and analysis services throughout the Midwest, unveiled its new brand. The firm distilled its essence through a comprehensive brand-discovery process that led A&L Great Lakes Laboratories to recognize that the scientific and agronomic depth at the heart of its business benefits customers more because the company delivers its services with a human touch.

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September 01, 2013

Goodbye, Old Friend

How many times in our lives have we faced a situation that generated both happy and sad emotions at the same time? We’re facing that right now at A&L Great Lakes Laboratories. Lois Parker has officially retired, effective at the end of September and for those of us who have worked with her for so many years, this is indeed a sad time. She will be greatly missed.

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September 01, 2012

Soil Testing After a Drought

There has been a substantial amount of information and speculation published recently regarding how the drought of 2012 may affect soil test results of samples collected during the dry period. This article is an attempt to summarize these facts.

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March 01, 2012

Methods for Determining Soil Phosphorus

Phosphorus (P) is a key nutrient for crop production, and keeping adequate levels of P in the soil is important for maximizing plant growth and development. However, understanding the various analytical methods for determining soil phosphorus can be challenging.

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

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