Woods End Laboratories, manufacturer of laboratory-based soil tests, announced the release of the Solvita Field Test, which enables growers and crop consultants to conduct on-site evaluations of soil biology without the added expense of sending samples to a laboratory.

As growers have become more interested in biological soil fertility — more popularly known as “soil health” — measuring soil CO2 respiration in the field has become important as a way to gauge the quality of the soil’s biology. This measurement is also significant in that it provides a way to track how much CO2 the plants are receiving.

Plants have a large appetite for CO2, particularly mid-summer. They extract CO2 from surrounding air to form basic sugars through photosynthesis. During the most rapid growth, however, CO2 can be a limiting nutrient. This means yields are saturated at lower than potential levels.

“It would take 12 to 38 cubic acres of air to provide enough CO2 for an acre of wheat and corn,” Will Brinton, Ph.D., the inventor of Solvita, explained. “We commonly assume plants just somehow get all this from the air, but the fact is much is coming directly from soil due to microbial respiration.”

“Basal respiration expresses the total activity of bacteria and fungi living in the soil,” Brinton explained, “and this reflects the system’s balance of soil organic matter, the primary source of CO2, which diffuses out of soil. With the Solvita Field Test, agronomists and growers can accurately monitor this rate and make observations that can affect future organic matter applications and yield.”