February 12, 2019

What Distinguishes One Microbiology Test From Another?

A frequent question we receive is about how our test differs from other soil microbiology tests.

Since there are multiple tests that measure soil microbiology, let’s focus on one common example for our comparison. The 24-hour CO2 burst test is often used by agronomists to quantify the amount of soil microbial life. This test, which is commonly offered by labs that offer soil health testing, provides a single number indicator of soil biological activity.

“Receiving an aggregate number doesn’t give us an understanding of the complexity of biodiversity in that soil sample.”

The CO2 burst test measures the amount of CO2 respired by soil organisms in the 24 hours after the dry soil sample is rehydrated. The amount of CO2 respired is indicative of the total microbial biomass present in the sample, (it should be noted, that not all organisms are respiring 24 hours after being rehydrated). This method of measuring a 24-hour CO2 burst produces one number. Receiving an aggregate number doesn’t give us an understanding of the complexity of biodiversity in that soil sample. For example, you wouldn’t be able to use that single number indicator to better understand nitrogen availability to crops due to biologically driven nitrogen mineralization.

“We (Trace Genomics) are able to give the customer a measurement of each organism present.”

In contrast, Trace Genomics soil test will give you not just one number, but instead will provide you with a deeper level of biological detail. Because we sequence the DNA of each organism in the sample, we are able to give the customer a measurement of each organism present. With the detailed analysis of microbial activity in your soil, we can begin to better understand processes such as biologically driven nitrogen mineralization. That would allow you to make more targeted and precise decisions, such as a determination of a more environmental/economical/agronomic precise nitrogen fertilizer application rate.

Coworkers_Lab_Photoshoot 2

As an analogy, let’s look at field yield data. You can look at the overall production of the field, one single number, or you can look at yield monitor data. Yield monitor data shows you how yield changes, acre by acre. That greater depth of data can help gain a better understanding of the drivers of the low and high producing acres—that’s the equivalent granularity you get from Trace Genomics test.

So back to our question- what differentiates Trace Genomics soil test from other providers? With Trace’s test you will get measurements of multiple soil biology indicators that reflect the inner workings of your soil’s biology. Read our blog post on how you can be sure that data is accurate. Better yet, the data we provide translates into direct actions you can take on your farm.