December 17, 2018

How Our Customers Can Be Sure Their Soil Test Results Are Accurate

A customer sends us a soil sample, we return a soil health report. Soil tells a story of the environment it’s providing for the crop, it uncovers information like what pathogens are lurking, how much beneficial nutrients are present, so our customers can make big decisions like what seed variety to plant or which fertilizer to use. When our customers make decisions of this magnitude, they need to be certain that the data they are using is accurate.

The accuracy of Trace Genomics soil health report data lies in the process that each soil sample goes through when it enters our lab. Let’s follow a soil sample into Trace’s lab. 



The third step is microbial identification. Through this step we identify where the soil DNA comes from. Each nine millimeter soil sample contains millions of microbesevery single microbe is identified by comparing it to Trace’s soil database. This involves heavy computation analysis of genetic information and also lots of data storage. This step includes two methods: first, we determine what species are represented by the DNA in the soil. This is useful for determining the presence of pathogens that cause disease and for detecting groups of species that work together to promote plant growth, suppress disease, or even occasionally increase disease risk. Second, we determine what specific genes and metabolic functions of the soil the DNA sequences come from. These two methods of genetic identification give us two independent ways of analyzing the contents of the soil. We look at it both ways for quality assurance.


The microbial make-up of soil can inform all crop management decisions.

Finally (step four), we take the raw data generated from the microbial processes above and turn it into metrics that are displayed in the soil health report. These metrics can be as simple as risk of pathogens in the soil to more complicated metrics like measures of the nitrogen cycling components. The purpose of these metrics are for our customers to use to make more optimized management decisions. The microbial make-up of soil can inform all crop management decisions.


So, how can our customers be sure their report data is accurate? Consistency is the answer. Each soil sample, no matter where in the world the soil comes from, goes through the exact same process. Consistency means we apply the same quality checks to every sample. Consistency guarantees the accuracy of the products we deliver to our customers. Consistency is the key to building our database in a way that we can compare one sample to another in a scientifically valid way.


Want to see a soil health report in action and understand how our customers are using the report to make better management decisions? Read our customer success story blog here.