January 20, 2022
Sustainable farming is the optimal utilization of agriculture resources and farming methods to meet society’s food needs while protecting the environment, maintaining ecological balance, and conserving natural resources.
Due to depleting soil fertility, industrialization, and water scarcity in several parts of the globe, the real challenge is sustaining agricultural productivity to meet the dietary needs of present and future generations. Imbalanced and indiscriminate use of fertilizers deteriorates the chemical, biological, and physical properties of the soil. Farmers need to determine the precise amount of extractable nutrients in the soil to attain higher productivity and profitability. It is essential to use available nutrient resources more efficiently to yield higher crop productivity.
Soil testing and tissue analysis are the two ultimate ways for sustainable agriculture and land management.
Soil testing is a chemical method that helps assess the nutrient and fertility levels in the soil. Soil testing provides a clear picture of soil health and the type and quantity of fertilizers to be administered on a particular type of soil. In addition to contaminants such as heavy metals, it is also important to test soil for pH because soil’s pH levels govern the number of extractable nutrients in the soil. Soil testing helps farmers determine the right mix of fertilizers needed for optimal production.
Soil testing provides accurate information about the deficiency of major nutrients in the soil as well as helps determine potential threats such as soil salinity, alkalinity, and acidity. Consequently, soil testing is very useful for growers and helps attain significant production. It is essential to create awareness among the farmers regarding the potential benefits of soil testing as many farmers still do not send samples for pre-plant soil analysis. Soil testing can eliminate the risk of a poor harvest, saving farmers from incurring heavy losses.
A fertile soil may not necessarily result in a higher crop yield. It is highly essential for growers to determine if nutrients in the soil are being absorbed by the plant at appropriate levels. The most cost-effective way to determine this is by analyzing the plant tissue. For precise tissue analysis, plant leaves must be dried, homogenized, and digested before testing on a dry weight basis. As a standard practice, soil testing laboratories report macro and secondary nutrients in percent and micronutrients in parts per million (ppm).
Plant tissue analysis helps determine if a crop is obtaining adequate nutrients from the soil. It also helps in deciding the type and amount of fertilizer required for the optimum growth of crops. Farmers should use organic manures and bio-fertilizers over synthetic ones as they have their own environmental benefits and assure long-term sustainability. Plant tissue analysis also determines the deficiency of nutrients in a crop and helps farmers prepare for potential problems that could jeopardize crop productivity in adverse weather conditions. While soil testing indicates adequate nutrient levels in the soil, tissue analysis enables growers to monitor nutrient uptake and absorption capacity of crops.
Hence, soil testing and tissue analysis are of paramount importance as they provide precise analytical data for informed decision-making.
A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) enables an agriculture laboratory to scale up operations, reduce the turnaround time, and assure accurate results. A LIMS is essential to drive process automation in agriculture testing laboratories. An Agriculture LIMS software eliminates human errors and assures data integrity as the data from analytical instruments is automatically transferred to a LIMS. An agriculture LIMS software can generate custom Certificates of Analysis (CoAs). Subsequently, laboratory managers can share CoAs with growers in real-time through a secure portal. A LIMS helps comply with quality control standards to support the accuracy and validity of test results. Furthermore, a LIMS can be integrated with IoT-enabled devices for smart farming and software, such as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), for streamlining business processes.
Soil testing and tissue analysis are essential for sustainable crop production and land management practices. Soil testing supports the judicious administration of nutrients in the soil, paving the way for sustainable farming. Growers should be apprised of the importance of soil testing and tissue analysis through training programs. A LIMS serves as a turnkey solution for effective data management and automation in soil testing laboratories. A LIMS digitizes all laboratory processes from seed to sale and helps meet regulatory compliance such as ISO/IEC 17025:2017, GLP, and 21 CFR Part 11.