Doctoral student Aiquin Zhao puts chemicals to use in a SNRAS laboratory.
A recent donation of chemicals from Pogo Mine will greatly assist the work of the SNRAS soils and agronomy laboratory.
Shawn Chen, senior processing control engineer at Pogo, with the assistance of Stacy Staley, was instrumental in getting the chemicals to UAF Associate Professor Mingchu Zhang. Researchers, technicians, and faculty have already begun to put the chemicals to good use, and the bounty of acids will assist in teaching and research efforts.
The chemicals will be used in the soils and agronomy lab to make extracts from soil and/or plant tissue that will then be analyzed for the amount (concentration in parts per million or percent) of important botanical nutrients such as mineral and organic forms of nitrogen and phosphorus. Or, the chemicals will be used to make the reagents and standards that are used in various procedures to analyze for various nutrients. Each nutrient usually requires a separate extraction and testing procedure, making many different tests necessary.
Researchers also analyze for the soil’s ability to hold on to and exchange (make them available for plant uptake) these nutrients during the growing season. Then plant tissues are analyzed for these nutrients to see how much of what is in the soil is actually taken up by the plant. There are also many other tests done on the soil’s physical and chemical properties that are indirectly related to these chemical extractions for nutrients.
“All of these lab procedures give us a better understanding of the nutrient cycling in soils, information we can eventually present to the public,” explained Bob VanVeldhuizen, research assistant. The results of the lab work are presented to farmers, home gardeners, land managers, and others at forums such as the Delta Farm Forum and in SNRAS/AFES publications.
“We try to help people better manage their soil fertility, either with chemically or organically based fertilizers,” VanVeldhuizen said. “Having Pogo donate these lab chemicals allows us to spend our limited resources on many of the other lab procedures to better gain that understanding of soil nutrient cycling.”