JustinM

Justin Morris
During the Soil for Water film premiere held in February, two questions were asked regarding different types of soil health testing.

Question: Can you explain the PLFA and Haney soil health tests?

Answer: PLFA is an acronym for Phospholipid Fatty Acid test. Since all organisms in the soil have a phospholipid membrane, this type of test can differentiate the different types of phospholipid fatty acids in different types of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes. A PLFA test will give you a pretty good indication of the general groups of organisms in the soil along with their approximate populations so you can analyze their relative ratios to each other. The Haney test doesn't tell you who's there like a PLFA test, but it does tell you how healthy your soil is by using many measurements of health. These measurements include: water extractable organic carbon, water extractable nitrogen, water extractable organic nitrogen, carbon to nitrogen ration, solvita microbial activity test, inorganic nitrogen, inorganic phosphorus, and inorganic potassium. Here is a link to a presentation done by Rick Haney that talks about the test he developed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQ3tI-KwgEE&t=4s.

Question 2: Have different farmers/ranchers found that the Haney soil health test results change with changes in soil management?

Answer: Agricultural producers have found that the results of the Haney Test change with changes in soil management. Crop producers have noticed that their soil health calculation (SHC) improves as they disturb the soil less, keep the soil covered, increase cropping diversity and strive to keep a live root in the ground as much throughout the year as possible.
 

luz.ballesteros

Moderator
During the Soil for Water film premiere held in February, two questions were asked regarding different types of soil health testing.

Question: Can you explain the PLFA and Haney soil health tests?

Answer: PLFA is an acronym for Phospholipid Fatty Acid test. Since all organisms in the soil have a phospholipid membrane, this type of test can differentiate the different types of phospholipid fatty acids in different types of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes. A PLFA test will give you a pretty good indication of the general groups of organisms in the soil along with their approximate populations so you can analyze their relative ratios to each other. The Haney test doesn't tell you who's there like a PLFA test, but it does tell you how healthy your soil is by using many measurements of health. These measurements include: water extractable organic carbon, water extractable nitrogen, water extractable organic nitrogen, carbon to nitrogen ration, solvita microbial activity test, inorganic nitrogen, inorganic phosphorus, and inorganic potassium. Here is a link to a presentation done by Rick Haney that talks about the test he developed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQ3tI-KwgEE&t=4s.

Question 2: Have different farmers/ranchers found that the Haney soil health test results change with changes in soil management?

Answer: Agricultural producers have found that the results of the Haney Test change with changes in soil management. Crop producers have noticed that their soil health calculation (SHC) improves as they disturb the soil less, keep the soil covered, increase cropping diversity and strive to keep a live root in the ground as much throughout the year as possible.
Hi Justin!

Thank you for sharing that video. I think Dr. Haney does a great job at explaining how complex and variable soil testing can be and the difference between Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) and Soil Organic Matter (SOM). Which brings me to what I call " The SOM crash". In recent work I started noticing that people starting to implement the 5 soil health principles in semi-arid, arid regions sometimes see a SOM crash, while describing a visually healthier soil. At first it made me really question the validity of testing for SOM but then I started thinking that it was possible that very happy soil microbes where consuming it. What are your thoughts? Should land managers start focusing more on SOC metrics rather than SOM?
 

BobB

New member
Luz,
I just saw your response and questions regarding arid region SOM crash and what it means. I have been working with soil health measurement processes for several years and continue to work to find low cost and quick measurement tools to help all growers better understand what is taking place in their soil. Having worked with soil respiration, CO2, I find that even with 2 identical soils with moderate soil health, soils exposed to higher temperatures will consume or respire more carbon as well as mineralize more soil nutrients due to the temperature alone. The Arhennius Equation will rule the rate of microbial respiration, The Arrhenius equation describes the relationship between the rate of reaction and temperature for many physical and chemical reactions.
For soil microbes for every 10 C increase or decrease in temperature, the rate of respiration will double.
This is one reason semi-arid and arid soils usually have less OM or carbon present, it is metabolized more quickly. For those interested, I have found that using soil respiration in conjunction with microbial biomass measurements can provide some unique insights to what your soil is doing, both can be performed in real-time and at low cost. I am bench testing some areas to help growers focus on the critical growth stages of crops and plants using irrigation with high dissolved oxygen water, very promising.
 

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