It is an interesting question. Obviously, there are a number of fine, outstanding laboratories. However, the bigger question is the following:
What should I be looking for in selecting a soil testing lab for me?
Here are some key differentials to look for:
Quality Soil Testing – What should I be looking for with respect to quality at a soil testing lab?
Find out for yourself what type of soil testing packages are available. Some of the best soil labs in the country offer many options for you. As a user, you really need to understand the major differences between each package. Also, how these analysis factors into final recommendations based on crop.
I would even go farther and ask the question, “What happens when my soil arrives at the laboratory?” Call the lab and ask them how the process works. At Midwest Laboratories, constant attention is taken to drying the soil once it is received. In addition, over 43 years, the process of grinding has changed and improved immensely to provide the laboratory with a fine sample for the manual extraction process.
Additionally, find out what type of laboratory equipment the lab uses. At Midwest Laboratories, several ICAPs are used in the analysis of the soil nutrients. These instruments carry a heavy price tag, but they also provide very accurate results.
Finally, quality control. Find out if the lab uses quality checks throughout the process to ensure consistent extraction and analysis throughout the process. Over the years this process to has been refined and updated to ensure a high standard of quality.
Turnaround Time – What type of turnaround time should I expect to receive and what does that include from a soil testing lab?
Many laboratories talk about their robust quality time, but if it takes 10 days to 2 weeks to analyze your soil sample, you are losing valuable planning time. Turnaround time can vary quite a bit from lab to lab. At Midwest Laboratories 2-3 day turnaround is the standard once your samples are received. To ensure this type of turnaround time, capacity must be there to effectively receive, dry, grind, extract and analyze your samples. If there is a hold-up, it is usually because there is a shortage of capacity in one of these areas.
Turnaround time also includes communication. At Midwest Laboratories, clients can log-in and see that their samples have been received and entered into the system. In addition, once soils analysis has been completed and verified, a soil report is automatically sent via email and the results are loaded to the client’s account on the website.