According to their website, Agri Analysis, Inc. is a agricultural and environmental laboratory located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Agri Analysis’ laboratories test feed/forage, water, manure, soil, plant tissue, horticulture, turf, fertilizer, lime and compost.

Here’s what Emily Schenk, Ph.D., Lab Services Manager, has to say.

agri analysisGrowing Magazine:
Water, and lack of water, is a big concern today. What is the process that Agri Analysis takes to test for minerals in the water? Does a representative come out to the location of the water or can people send in samples?

Emily Schenk:
Agri Analysis offers a variety of water testing packages that are important for assessing the health status and overall quality of the water. In addition to our most common testing service, bacteria water testing (total coliform and E. coli count), mineral analysis is also provided  and is beneficial to farmers. Agri Analysis offers what we refer to as a “farm livestock bundle” (FLB) analysis, which includes the following minerals: calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, sodium, iron, manganese, zinc and copper. Mineral content is not only important for human consumption but is also critical for irrigation purposes when the water is to be consumed by livestock as well.

Agri Analysis uses analytical instrumentation to perform mineral testing. We participate in quarterly proficiency testing programs to ensure the accuracy of our protocols and reported results.

Agri Analysis does not offer sample collection services for any of our testing options. Because of the volume of samples we receive daily, our focus must remain on the analysis portion of the process. We do, however, offer sample collection bottles that contains detailed instructions regarding collection, handling and transport of the sample. Proper sample collection is especially critical for bacteria testing, which is also offered at Agri Analysis.

Growing Magazine:
What recommendations do you have for farmers to know what minerals are in their water to remove them?

Without a doubt – the most important recommendation we can give is to stay current with your water testing. Well water especially can change over the course of a year in terms of mineral content, pH as well as other factors which can affect overall quality. The best method of practice to ensure your water quality will meet your needs is to test it. Our reports contain interpretation based on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for safe drinking water. Agri Analysis does not offer advice or comment on water remediation efforts. We do however, recommend consulting a water specialist. Once efforts have been made to improve water quality, our laboratory would recommend additional testing to assess the success of such efforts.

Growing Magazine:
Soil testing can be a time consuming project. How does Agri Analysis help a farmer who tests their soil? What are the steps a farmer must take before submitting water or soil samples to Agri Analysis?

Agri Analysis understands the time and effort that goes into soil testing each season and we try to offer services to simplify this process. Our paperwork required for testing is concise and we also offer online submittal of samples, as well as the option to upload your sample information to a server that can also be edited at a later date. We also offer soil collection bags marked with a “fill to” line so that customers know the amount of material needed to be submitted for testing. In addition we have instructions regarding sample collection to ensure that a soil sample representative of the region of interest is being submitted. Agri Analysis can appreciate the value of time when it comes to agriculture, and therefore we try to assist our customers as much as we can so that useful information is obtained. Improper sample collection can affect the accuracy of the fertilizer recommendations that are provided.

Growing Magazine:
What are the testing equipment used in your laboratory and how are you able to keep up with the increasing demands of industry advances?

Agri Analysis employs a variety of analytical instrumentation for our testing services. Our protocols are evaluated for accuracy as well as the demand for sample throughput to provide effective turnaround times for our customers. We participate in several quarterly and monthly proficiency programs to ensure accuracy of results and to stay current with any changes in testing protocols or needs of the industry.

Growing Magazine:
How does Agri Analysis go about testing fruits and vegetables? What are some warning signs/red flags that farmers must be aware about?

Agri Analysis offers both plant tissue testing and fresh fruitlet testing as additional methods to monitor plant mineral content and plant health. Plant tissue testing encompasses the analysis of the dried plant material (leaves, petioles, whole tops etc.). Fresh fruit testing, on the other hand, refers to the analysis of the fruit itself. Plant tissue testing serves as an approach to monitor mineral content and determine the potential of deficient or excessive minerals before there are visual symptoms are observed. Visual symptoms of deficiency a significant warning sign (yellowing of leaves, poor growth, no fruit onset) regarding plant health, however are difficult to combat. Typically, when plants have reached the point of visually displaying deficiencies the remainder of the season is spent trying to replenish this imbalance. We recommend testing throughout the season so that as the mineral profile changes, adjustments can be made in a timely fashion. Agri Analysis has several crops and growth stages that can be monitored, allowing farmers the option to track plant changes throughout the season.

Agri Analysis also offers fresh fruitlet and fruit testing for some crops (apples, Asian pears, potato tubers, blueberries). Research has shown that mineral relationships in the fruit can be used to predict the extent of an apple fruit disorder known as bitter pit, which can affect quality and yield of apples. Apple fruit testing reports provide farmers with an interpretation of the health of the fruit crop. The changes in fruit can be traced throughout the growing season, tracking improvements or determining if problems are progressing. Agri Analysis has incorporated additional fruit analyses as research projects to determine if, with the inclusion of a variety of samples over several seasons if interpretation on these crops can also be provided to farmers.

Five Questions is a monthly series that discusses industry-related topics with the people who influence the industry.

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