July, 2008

Raymond C. Ward Ph.D.

Jolen F. Ward, B.S.
Corporate Secretary

Salt in Manure,
How Much is Safe?
The first question many producers ask when they consider applying manure to their fields is, “How much salt is safe?” And, since there can be high concentrations of salt in manure, the question is valid.
To answer the question about salt in manure Dr. Ray Ward, a certified soil scientist, says we need to understand salt a bit better. Dr. Ward says that any combination of an acid and base create a salt. Common table salt, NaCl, is formed by mixing lye with muratic acid for example.

But, Dr. Ward points out, salt found in manure are beneficial plant nutrients and not the salt we use to season our evening meal. And, as a consequence, if the nutrient content in your manure application is managed properly, salt should never be a problem in the soil.

Dr. Ward went on to explain that 80% of nutrients are excreted through manure by a growing animal and 100% will be secreted in an animal that’s not growing anymore, such as a milk cow.

He emphasized that manure needs to be tested so that a producer can design a nutrient management program based on the content of the manure, yield goals, soil analysis and more. Over application of manure for example, can create accumulation of salt in the soil Dr. Ward said. Generally, a concentration of 5,000 lbs. of salt/acre or greater are detrimental to your crop.

Ward Laboratories, Inc. regularly sample manure and the test results reveal the salt content in the sample along with the content of other nutrients.
Dr. Ward concluded by saying that regular analysis of manure you plan to apply, as well as your soil, is necessary. If you continually apply manure the best strategy is to monitor your nutrient levels with a soil test. And, he reminded producers that nutrients, including salt, are removed at harvest. Regular soil tests will determine if soluble salts are being depleted.

Ward Laboratories Named Outstanding Small Business
The Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce recently named Ward Laboratories, Inc. its Small Business of the Year for 2007. The award was presented to Ray and Jolene Ward at the Chamber’s annual meeting attended by more than 600 people.

The Ward’s were recognized for their financial and voluntary contributions to the area, for their leadership in local, state and national organizations and for their contributions to the continued growth and development of Kearney.
The Ward’s started their agricultural testing facility in leased facilities with 2 1/2 employees in 1983. A few years later, Ward Laboratories moved to a brand new building. Today Ward Laboratories has 15,000 square feet of laboratory space and 35 employees.

Managing Fertilizer Through Soil Sampling
If there is one topic discussed more than the weather at coffee shops across the Great Plains, its the cost of fertilizer as producers look at the 2008 growing season.

There is no question that fertilizer is critical to a successful crop and there is no question that fertilizer is among the greatest input cost a producer faces. So, how does a producer maximize the benefits of fertilizer while minimizing costs?
Dr. Ray Ward’s message about fertilizer has been constant throughout his 40 year career as a certified soil scientist and as owner of Ward Laboratories, Inc. For Dr. Ward, the secret to successful fertilizer management starts with soil testing, or knowing what nutrients are present in your soil.

Dr. Ward says the samples you take should assess both mobile and immobile nutrients, which generally means those nutrients that “stay” in one place and those that “wander” through the root zone. A uniform slice of soil taken with a soil probe or auger at a depth of 0-8 inches will help evaluate the levels for both mobile and immobile nutrients. Ten-15 sub soil samples should be taken at this level and mixed together to get a representative sample for Ward Laboratories to analyze.

Mobile nutrients such as nitrate and chloride can best be assessed with auger or probe samples taken at depths of 8” to 24” or 8” to 36”. Eight to 10 sub samples blended together will provide a representative sample for the laboratory.

Ward Laboratories’ analysis of soil samples routinely assess soil pH, EC, OM, nitrate, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, zinc, manganese, cooper, iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride and boron. The key, Dr. Ward says, is knowing what nutrients your soil contains so that you can determine what needs applied to maximize crop yield goals. And, Dr. Ward stressed that if you haven’t had your soil tested much, a complete soil profile test is needed to provide you with accurate, up-to-date data on your soil.

Once your soils have been analyzed you can match the needs of the soils with recommendations provided by Ward Laboratories, a university or your consultant. The attached table will provide you a basis for nutrient needs.

If soil tests are not available then some guessing needs to be done taking into account the nutrients removed by the grain at harvest as identified in Table #1.

In determining nitrogen needs, the producer will calculate the need based on the following formula:

200 bushel yield x .75 lb/bu (nutrient removed from Table #1) = 150

150 x 1.2 (20% over crop removal) = 180 lbs of N/acre

Other nutrients needed should be based on a medium range soil test with an application of 1/2 of the crop removed value.

In short, however, the best way to manage fertilizer cost is to take consistent soil samples with a professional analysis.

Table 1. Nutrient removal in grain of several crops.

Nutrient Wheat, lb/bu Corn, lb/bu Milo,lb/bu Soybean,lb/bu Canola, lb/bu Sunflower,
N 1.2 0.75 0.81 3.7 3.2 1.4
P205 0.52 0.32 0.35 0.77 0.71 0.26
K20 0.26 0.23 0.25 1.4 2.22 0.6
Sulfur 0.12 0.09 0.12 0.37 0.62 0.24
Zinc 0.003 0.001 0.001 0.002    
Manganese 0.0002 0.0006 0.0008 0.001    
Copper 0.0007 0.0004 0.0003 0.001    
Calcium 0.03 0.01 0.05 0.38    
Magnesium 0.17 0.05 0.08 0.20    

Table 2. Soil test ratings for several plant nutrients

Nutrient (ppm)

Very Low




Very High

Best Use of Test

Phosphorus  P

Olsen Bicarbonate






Wide range of soils







Neutral, acidic







Wide range of soils

Potassium (exch)K






Wide range of soils

Magnesium (exch) Mg






Wide range of soils

Sulfate (Ca-P)   S






Wide range of soils

Zinc (DTPA)   Zn






Wide range of soils

Iron (DTPA)   Fe






Alkaline soils

Copper (DTPA)   Cu






Wide range of soils

Manganese (DTPA)   Mn






Alkaline soils

Boron   B






Wide range of soils

National Standards Equipment Testing
Insure Ward RFV Analysis Is Right

Forgive Dr. Ward and his professional staff at Ward Laboratories, Inc. if they get a bit testy when the Relative Feed Value (RFV) results of a Ward conducted analysis of hay is challenged.

You see, Dr. Ward knows his equipment is sound, the test methodology is correct and national standards are used as a basis for the RFV testing done at Ward Laboratories, Inc. And, when you add Dr. Ward’s 40 years of experience to the equation, he knows the test results are accurate.

First, Dr. Ward explained that the Near Infrared Reflective (NIR) instrument used to analyze more than 35,000 hay and feed samples annually at Ward Laboratories is tested weekly for accuracy.

According to lab manager Duane Osmanski, the weekly test includes an instrument diagnostic conducted by the NIR Consortium, a group of labs nationwide that want consistency and accuracy in their results. The
weekly test consists of running a check on actual samples which are then sent to the consortium website for analysis. The website data then reveals if the instrument is calibrated correctly to meet national standards, Omansky said. The information from the weekly monitoring is saved and can be tracked to insure that the instrument is consistently accurate.

And, the case for Ward’s accuracy is further defended by regularly testing to meet national standards through the National Forage Testing Association (NFTA). NFTA is a national association of laboratories that use NIR testing to analyze feed samples. Not all laboratories are members of the association or use NIR instruments, Dr. Ward said.

Six times a year Ward will send six different samples to NFTA to verify Ward’s findings. The tests are done at different times of the year and include the analysis of four alfalfa samples and two grass samples. Ward professionals can address any discrepancies from their results and NFTA’s results.

And, even though Dr. Ward is confident in the equipment and methodology of his RFV tests, he did conduct a test of his own recently. The lab analyzed four alfalfa samples 28 times using nationally accepted protocol. The samples analyzed were divided into quarters and each quarter was analyzed. Results were also developed when a sample was “halved” with each half being analyzed.

Ward Laboratories, Inc. found deviations in the RFV results from one quarter of a sample to the next. But, Osmanski explained that the deviations were not significant and were likely due to loading of the samples into the instrument.

Dr. Ward said differences found in the RFV of the same feed are easy to explain. Differences in the RFV results will be present if different equipment and methods are used. He says to be sure that whatever lab is conducting a second test uses NIR equipment, and protocol and methodology established by NFTA.

In short, Dr. Ward is very confident that the RFV results he provides for his clients are right. He knows the instruments are functioning well, the methodology meets national standards and his 40 years of experience insure credibility with every test.

Note: The chart below illustrates Ward Laboratories NIR performance evaluation in 2007 for alfalfa samples. The table lists the Ward average and the Reference Method Average (RMA) of the other NFTA members. RMA is defined as half of the results are higher than the RMA and half are lower. The table clearly shows Ward within percentage points of the average.



Ward Average



















Dr. Ward Receives Prestigious Honor
From Soil Science Society of America

This past summer Dr. Ray Ward, President of Ward Laboratories, Inc., was recognized with the prestigious Soil Science Professional Service Award from the Soil Science Society of America.

The award, which was presented at the organization’s annual meeting in New Orleans, was given to Dr. Ward for 40 plus years of professional service to the soil science industry. Dr. Ward’s service on a variety of Board of directors, speaking engagements to agricultural audiences across America, published articles in trade magazines and textbooks and successful track record as a consultant led to the recognition. The President of Bangladesh, a soil scientist by training, presented the award to Dr. Ward. The President shared the podium at the convention with Dr. Ward as the featured speaker. He spoke on his country’s preparation for the impact of global warming.

Dr. Ward was recognized by the Society in 2005 as well with the organization’s Soil Science Industry Award.