SERA6: Methodology, Interpretation, and Implementation of Soil, Plant, Byproduct, and Water Analyses
(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)
SERA6: Methodology, Interpretation, and Implementation of Soil, Plant, Byproduct, and Water Analyses
Duration: 10/01/2017 to 09/30/2022
Statement of Issues and Justification
The mission of the Southern Extension and Research Activities Information Exchange Group (SERA-IEG-6) is to increase awareness, understanding, and interpretation of soil, plant, byproduct, and water analyses and their proper application to land and resource management in the Southern USA through unbiased, scientifically sound information. The SERA-IEG-6 is a cooperative effort among Southern region states to develop, modify, and document analytical procedures; encourage uniformity in the soil test correlation/calibration/interpretation process for the development of nutrient and resource management guidelines among geographic areas that share similar soils, climate, and environmental concerns; encourage both analytical proficiency and adequate quality assurance/quality control for laboratories in the Southern Region of the United States that perform nutrient analyses; provide unbiased scientific reasoning for the use and interpretation of soil, plant, byproduct, and water analyses and its application to resource management; and facilitate the dissemination of research data and educational materials among public institutions, laboratories, and other entities that use information generated from soil, plant, byproduct, and water analyses. These objectives are realized by the dissemination of information and identification of critical issues by use of annual technical meetings, committee involvement, task force development, publications, and personal communication among representatives and other interested parties.
Accurate and timely analyses of soil, plant, byproduct, and water using appropriate analytical and interpretation procedures are required with the current emphasis on nutrient management and its impact on the quality of life in both rural and urban areas. Nutrient management issues have a high priority at the local, regional, and national levels, and a number of institutions, organizations, and agencies cooperate to ensure the sustainability of production agriculture and industrial activities while striving to maintain a healthy environment. Effective nutrient management serves commercial agriculture and the public by ensuring fertilizers and soil amendments are used wisely. Constant changes in technology dictate the need to continuously reevaluate analytical methods, interpretation of information, and problem solving approaches to improve nutrient utilization efficiency by crops and decrease loss of nutrients to the environment.
To develop, modify, and document reference analytical procedures for laboratories performing agricultural and environmental analyses in the Southern Region.
To encourage and facilitate uniformity in soil test correlation, calibration, and interpretation for the development of nutrient and resource management guidelines among geographic areas that share similar soils, crops, climate, and environmental concerns
To encourage and facilitate analytical proficiency and adequate quality assurance/quality control among laboratories in the Southern Region.
To provide unbiased scientific analysis for the proper use and interpretation of soil, plant, byproduct, and water analyses and their application to land-use decisions and resource management.
To facilitate the sharing and transfer of research data and educational materials among public institutions, laboratories, and other entities that use information generated from soil, plant, byproduct, and water analyses.
Procedures and Activities
- A website is updated and maintained with meeting minutes, memberships, presentations, publications, fact sheets, meeting sites, photo gallery, resolutions, and white papers (http://aesl.ces.uga.edu/).
- A Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin on “Soil Test Methods from the Southeastern United States” was published (http://aesl.ces.uga.edu/sera6/PUB/MethodsManualFinalSERA6.asp)
- A Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin on “Procedures Used by State Soil Testing Laboratories in the Southern Region of the United States” was updated (http://aesl.ces.uga.edu/sera6/PUB/409June2013CUPDATE.asp).
- A SERA-6 representative provided leadership to the North American Proficiency Testing (NAPT) Committee as chair elect 2013-2014, chair 2015-2016, and past chair 2017-2018.
- SERA-6 expressed concerns over the adoption and promotion of new soil testing methods to evaluate soil health by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)-USDA without involving the soil testing community of the land-grant university system, which is highly regarded as an unbiased source of information for producers. To convey the group’s concerns to NRCS and later to university leadership, SERA-6 issued the following:
- The membership sent a letter to Jason Weller, Chief of NRCS, stating that the soil health tests offered to growers lack scientific principle and recommendations from soil health test results were not clearly validated to enhance crop productivity.
- A report entitled “Soil Health Measurements and Interpretations: Public Labs’ Concerns and Issues” was written and shared with members and advisors to inform and promote discussion with various University leaders in the southern region.
- SERA-6 representatives attended the USDA-NRCS Soil Health Division and the Soil Health Institute Conference to talk about the indicators needed for a Soil Health Assessment at Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK on Feb 22-24, 2016.
- A SERA-6 representative provided leadership by co-chairing a subcommittee on soil methodologies and capacities of commercial/public laboratories coordinated by the Soil Health Institute.
- A SERA-6 member wrote articles on Soil Health in two Soil and Plant Analysis Council (SPAC) Newsletters, discussing the need for SERA-6 and other similar regional groups to work together and address concerns about NRCS’s soil health program.
- SERA-6 had joint meeting with other regional groups (NCERA-13 and NECC-1012) on July 18-20, 2016 in State College, PA. Major topics discussed included soil health measurements, testing methods for soil potassium (K), sulfur fertility, and soil test calibration.
- SERA-6 worked closely with the Soil and Plant Analysis Council (SPAC). Four members attended the 15th International Symposium on Soil and Plant Analysis held in Nanjing, China on May 14-18, 2017; SPAC co-hosted this symposium.
- A subcommittee formed to promote education for well water testing resulted in more active water testing programs of some member laboratories along with robust extension publication efforts; University of Georgia (http://aesl.ces.uga.edu/publications/watercirc/) and Clemson University, South Carolina are examples of states with expanding water testing programs.
- Two member universities are engaged in international agricultural development: University of Georgia is involved with improving fertilizer testing in Vietnam and Auburn University is currently establishing a soil testing laboratory in Cape Haitien, Haiti.
- This group is one of the oldest, continuous Experiment Station/Extension work groups in the South. Its first meeting was held in 1954 with the primary purpose of developing more uniform soil test methodology and research-based interpretation. Most procedures and interpretations used in the Southern region today have been developed by this group.
Expected Outcomes and Impacts
- A methods manual on soil test methods used in the Southeastern USA will be revised as new methods are adopted by member states published. Previous methods manuals were published in 1983, 1992, and 2013. New methods especially with the inclusion of soil quality and health issues and technology have resulted in the need for a new publication.
- Revise existing fact sheet publications when necessary.
- Publications on laboratory methodology and interpretation of soil, water, and byproduct analysis will be developed to the current state of knowledge in the area.
- Develop more uniform testing and interpretation of agricultural and environmental samples in the Southern Region.
- Improve public knowledge about changes in agricultural testing, crop production, and protection of the environment through our website and fact sheets.
- Labs in the Southern Region will continue to play an important role in agricultural production and environmental protection.
- Maintain involvement with proficiency testing programs for soil, plant, water, and byproduct analysis that help to improve laboratory performance. These programs include the North American Proficiency Testing program of the Soil Science Society of America, the Agriculture Laboratory Proficiency Program, the Manure Analysis Proficiency Program, and others.
- Resolve regional issues in agricultural and environmental testing via rapid communication with other members of the group through the email listserv.
- Continue to collaborate within SERA-6 and with other groups including international agencies to address food security and environmental quality.
Projected ParticipationView Appendix E: Participation
The objectives are realized through research, experimentation, presentations at annual meetings, discussion at annual meetings and through the group's listserve, committee involvement, task force development, and publications.
SERA-IEG-6 involves approximately 45 participants representing each of the Southern Region states/territories (except for the Virgin Islands) and two states outside the region (Missouri and Colorado). In addition, participants include ARS and State Department of Agriculture representatives.
The set of stakeholders, customers, and/or consumers for which the program is intended is researchers, extension personnel, farmers, nursery and greenhouse managers, homeowners, turf managers, and other technical service providers. Information regarding services and research can be accessed through the web or from each state institution.
The group meets once a year. The meeting place cycles among the member universities in the Southern Region. Every 4 years, a joint meeting is held with information exchange groups of other regions with similar objectives in agricultural testing.
Officers of chair, chair-elect, and secretary are elected from the active members. A secretary is voted on every other year at the annual business meeting. The individual holds the position for 2 years. The individual moves to the position of chair-elect for 2 years and then to chair for 2 years.
A web-site maintained at the University of Georgia is continually updated with meeting minutes, annual accomplishments, publications, issue papers, and laboratory links at http://aesl.ces.uga.edu/sera6/.
Sikora, F. and K. Moore (eds.) Soil Test Methods from the Southeastern United States. Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin No. 419 ISBN# 1581614195 January, 2014.
Savoy, H.J. 2013. Procedures Used by State Soil Testing Laboratories in the Southern Region of the United States. Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin No. 409. http://aesl.ces.uga.edu/sera6/PUB/409June2013CUPDATE.asp