Developing Digital Tools to Improve Soil Sampling and Analysis for Sustainable Agriculture in the Western U.S

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2015: $59,356.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Robert Flynn
New Mexico State University

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Soil Management: soil analysis

    Proposal abstract:

    Farmers and farm advisers can select from a host of private and public soil testing laboratories to test crop production potential in the soil. However, it is critically important that they request the correct analyses and then interpret the results correctly if they hope to develop profitable and sustainable management practices.

    Incorrect diagnosis of soil properties leads to incorrect management practices for phosphorus fertility, salt leaching, and amendment choices to reclaim sodic soils. Regional and state workshops often focus on correctly identifying limitations to sustainable production by incorporating demonstrations that illustrate the science behind the practice. However, these demonstrations can take time to prepare, are hard for large audiences to see, and are not conducive to meetings or conference schedules. The Cooperative Extension Service (Extension) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) training professionals need shorter, easy-to-use tools to educate and help farmers and ranchers understand key concepts of critical importance in western soils.

    We propose using time-lapse video, scientific visualizations, animations, and mobile-accessible demonstrations to illustrate key concepts and the reasons behind recommended soil testing and management practices. These resources can be used in a 30-60 minute presentation at grower and farm adviser workshops or for just-in-time mobile training for Extension/NRCS professionals working with farmers.

    Our team includes members of the Western Education/Extension and Research Activities or WERA-103 Nutrient Management and Water Quality Committee from four states (New Mexico, Washington, Colorado, and Arizona), a university researcher and New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) award-winning Media Productions Department.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    OUR GOAL is to increase sustainable soil productivity management practices in the West by increasing the incidence of correct analyses and interpretation of soil testing techniques.

    OUR CONTENT: Concepts critical to sustainable agriculture in the West, such as salinity, sodicity, phosphorus availability in high pH conditions, leaching requirement, water holding capacity, appropriate soil tests including saturated paste, and properly executed soil test and interpretation.


    1. To increase by 50% among targeted agricultural training professionals, an understanding of the unique problems of analyzing soils in the West and the proper procedures needed to obtain a reliable soil test.
    2. To increase by 25% the confidence of targeted agricultural training professionals in adequately explaining to producers the unique problems associated with analyzing soils in the West and the proper procedures needed to obtain a reliable soil test.
    3. To increase by 25% the number of targeted small farm owners (using established benchmark data) who understand the importance of soil testing and collecting samples according to prescribed protocols.
    4. To increase by 25% the ability of targeted agricultural professionals and producers who recognize when phosphorus was assessed using the wrong extract for the reported pH of the soil (as determined with a large test group such as at the Western Alfalfa and Forage Symposium)

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.