The Soil Testing and Research Analytical Laboratory (STRAL) provides quality analyses to U of M researchers, state and federal agencies, private companies, and the general public. As spring arrives in Minnesota, the labs are ready for a surge in soil samples from gardeners, farmers, and landscapers across the Midwest.
Grab your shovels and send us some soil! As the snow melts and spring begins to make its debut, the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Lab prepares for a surge in soil samples from fields, lawns, and gardens across the Midwest.
The Soil Testing Lab does routine soil fertility testing for farmers, gardeners, landscapers, and municipalities, as well as various soil analyses for university researchers. Its counterpart, the Research Analytical Laboratory, provides a wide range of analyses of soil, plant, water, and other materials in support of university, government, and private company research.
Together, the Soil Testing and Research Analytical Laboratory make STRAL, a unit housed in the Crops Research Building on the St. Paul campus. STRAL Research Manager Keith Piotrowski emphasizes that while the two labs serve two distinct purposes, they operate in an integrated manner.
“Most of our work for the public runs side-by-side with the work we do for research,” Piotrowski explains. “We apply the same techniques and attention to detail to soil samples from the public as we do for samples that are part of publishable research.”
The Soil Testing Lab focuses on measurements of nutrient status in the soil in order to provide science-based fertilizer recommendations for plant growth and environmental safety. The lab’s ‘regular series’ test - an analysis of phosphorus and potassium, pH levels, and soil texture - gives homeowners, gardeners, landscapers, and farmers a comprehensive look at their soil and makes recommendations on how to amend identified issues.
“Anybody can get their soil tested here - you don’t have to be an expert,” says Piotrowski. “Our reports are easy to read and include links to additional resources to help readers interpret the results and eliminate potential issues with soil fertility or pH.”
Soil testing is available to the public year round. For more information on soil testing, visit soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/.
For information on the Research Analytical Laboratory, visit ral.cfans.umn.edu/.