The test came about after a chance meeting between two researchers, Will Brinton, president of Woods End Laboratories in Maine, and Rick Haney, a soil scientist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Texas. The two men joined forces in 2005, to find a way to "manage soil health in a laboratory."
The result is a test that goes beyond just nutrients, and measures the quality, or the health of the soil system, Brinton said, as it relates to soil biology, structure and porosity.
The test relies on the same kind of core soil samples farmers already take and is currently offered in three locations: Woods End Labs in Mount Vernon, Maine; Brookside Laboratories in New Bremen, Ohio; and Ward Labs of Nebraska.
If you want the nitty-gritty technical details, the test methods "use green chemistry, in that the soil analysis uses a soil microbial activity indicator, a soil water extract (nature's solvent) and H3A, a soil extractant that mimics organic acids produced by living plant roots to temporarily change the soil pH, thereby increasing nutrient availability," said Haney, in a released statement.
The end result is the Soil Health Score, which Haney said "represents the overall health of the soil system," and combines five independent measurements of a soil's biological properties."
Local lab, Spectrum Analytic at Washington Court House, Ohio offers the Solvita test we've talked about here in this blog.
This fits right with the jar tests I am helping farmers with this spring to see how valuable gypsum could be to their soil health.