See more from this Session: Soil Testing and Plant Analysis
Monday, November 1, 2010
Long Beach Convention Center, Exhibit Hall BC, Lower Level
Historically, public soil testing laboratories (e.g., those run by university and other public service or government agencies) have played important and valuable roles in the fields of soil fertility and nutrient management and they continue to do so today. Examples of those contributions include the development and evaluation of new soil test methods and fertility recommendations, the collection of soil fertility data and the support of numerous extension and teaching programs. However, in recent years, the strategic goals of many universities have narrowed and/or changed direction and financial constraints have forced administrators to make difficult decisions about what programs to support. Combine with those issues the weakened connection between the general public and the “land” as people move farther away from the agriculturally linked economy of the past and it is not surprising that the soil testing laboratories housed within those institutions face increasing pressure to both justify their existence and be fiscally solvent or risk closure. This paper will present an (1) overview of the historic roles and contributions of the public service soil testing laboratories, (2) a look at how the numbers of these laboratories have changed over time and (3) a discussion of the issues – both those common to all soil testing labs and those unique to the public sector - that these laboratories now face as well as suggestions of the type of changes and efforts which are needed to ensure the they don't vanish from the landscape entirely.