Soil Microbiome [Ward Laboratories, Inc. and Trace Genomics]

We have added industry-leading soil microbiome testing to our robust agricultural testing product offerings! Ward Laboratories, Inc. already offers soil health assays including:

Similarly, through our partnership with Trace Genomics we offer soil microbiome analysis. This analysis allows our customers to access previously hidden insights on: 

  • Disease risk
  • Nutrient mobilization
  • Microbial biodiversity 

What is soil microbiome analysis? 

 Trace Genomics has pioneered the application of metagenomics sequencing technology to find and measure soil microbes. In other words, metagenomic sequencing means all the DNA in the soil is analyzed. So, Trace Genomics uses this technology to identify soil microbes responsible for nutrient cycling , soil pathogens and soil chemistry. This provides agronomists and farmers with cutting edge information about their soil. 

Furthermore, this analysis helps accurately find biological threats and manage fertility. Trace Genomics uses  DNA sequencing and a streamlined data analysis engine.  Consequently, they provide the most complete and detailed report of the soil’s ability to cycle essential plant nutrients. Additionally, measures of microbial biodiversity and oxygen availability also serve as important components in assessing the overall health of the soil. 

How do I sample for a soil microbiome analysis? 

The sampling procedure for these samples is the same as the procedure for traditional soil testing. 

  1. Use a soil  probe or spade to take 10-15 cores or furrow slices to represent up to 40 acres. Cores or slices should be from 0-6 or 0-8 inches deep.
  2. Combine cores and mix in a clean plastic bucket.
  3. Place mixture into a sample bag.
  4. Ship to Ward Laboratories, Inc. Be sure to include the sample submission paperwork.

The difference when pulling soil microbiome samples:

You should not send in a single sample. Trace Genomics reports work best by comparison. They recommend producers send in three samples of varying productivity levels.

  • High productivity
  • Medium productivity
  • Low productivity

As you collect the samples, record the latitude and longitude of the location the samples were taken. Latitude and longitude is required for this analysis! Through comparing results in association with productivity levels, you can use the soil microbiome as a management decision tool on your farm.

How do I use my results? 

You don’t have to be an expert in DNA sequencing to understand the results. Certainly, reports are delivered in an easy-to-understand format!

Soil microbiome analysis provides potential for microbe-driven changes in nitrogen and phosphorus. So, this helps you make specific fertility product placement decisions. 

Additionally, you will have a comprehensive understanding for potential disease risk. Accordingly, understanding disease risk will help you make plant variety and hybrid selections. For example, if soybean cyst nematode is present, you can select a soybean cyst nematode resistant variety. Furthermore, if Goss’s Wilt is present, then you should choose a corn hybrid that is rated well against that pathogen. 

Also, having the high, medium, and low performing samples serves as a diagnostic tool. You can make comparisons based on performance. As a result, giving you an idea of what may be limiting the lower performing areas. 

Finally, if you’re considering growing a different crop, you can get an idea of presence of pathogens that might affect your success.  

In conclusion, Ward Laboratories’ new partnership with Trace Genomics opens new doors for producers and consultants. We look forward to providing soil microbiome information to help you in your farm management! 

For any questions on soil microbiome testing, visit our website or contact the lab at 308-234-2418.

About the author

Hannah graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Agronomy and a minor in Agricultural Economics. She worked briefly in ag retail sales after college before joining Ward Laboratories in 2017.

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