Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter In Alberta Soils: Conclusions and References

 
 
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 The AESA Soil Quality Program tested two field methods for determining soil organic matter using soils from across Alberta. The objectives of this study were to test the methods proposed by Weil et al. (2003) and Bowman (1997) on Alberta soils to determine the reliability of the procedures by comparing them to results obtained through lab analyses and to determine if either method would make a significant contribution to the Soil Quality Test Kit.

We found that the method developed by Weil et al. (2003) was able to accurately detect soil organic matter when compared to lab results. However, the results exhibited a weak relationship between light fraction carbon and active carbon. The procedure outlined by Bowman (1997) provided results showing a reasonably strong relationship between the soil organic matter values obtained through lab analysis and the estimated soil organic matter values.

Based on the findings of this study either field method could potentially make a positive contribution to the USDA-ARS Soil Quality Test Kit for use in Alberta if used by those familiar with soil analyses. For those unfamiliar with procedures related to soil analyses, both field methods required the use of materials, including chemicals and measuring devices that could not easily be utilized without the aide of an experienced individual. Even with the chemicals and calculations provided, the amount of materials and background knowledge needed for each test may be daunting to an inexperienced user.

Therefore, both procedures would need to be adapted to ensure that the methodologies are as simplified as possible. The Weil et al. (2003) method to determine active C would need to be altered so that a generalized standard curve would be provided to the user to eliminate extensive calculations. The method proposed by Bowman (1997) would need to be changed so that standards are provided. Both methods involve making chemicals, which could introduce inconsistency if measured incorrectly or could be a discouraging aspect for the user. To eliminate these concerns it would be best to provide the user with the necessary chemical already mixed. Pre-prepared solutions also reduce the number of materials necessary to carry out both procedures in the field, increasing the ease of operations. Although the method to determine active C was more costly, it provided accurate results when measuring soil organic matter (R2=0.82) and was quantitative, which reduces user bias. The qualitative basic EDTA method was less expensive and, although not as accurate as the active C method, still provided results consistent with those of the lab (R2=0.67).

Both field methods have the capability to become an integral part of the USDA-ARS Soil Quality Test Kit for use in Alberta to measure soil organic matter. Further testing and modifications of both methods are necessary to ensure that they are straightforward and effective for the potential user.

References
AAFRD. 1985. Soil Organic Matter. Agdex 536-1. Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. Edmonton, AB. Available: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex890?opendocument (accessed April 2006).

AAFRD. 2003. Alberta Soil Quality Card. Agdex 525-2. Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. Edmonton, AB. Available:
http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex3918/$FILE/sqcard2.pdf (accessed April 2006).

Blair, G.J., Lefroy, R.D.B., and Lise, L. 1995. Soil carbon fractions based on their degree of oxidation, and the development of a carbon management index for agricultural systems. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 46: 1459-1466.

Bowman, R.A., Guenzi, W.D., and Savory, D.J. 1991. Spectroscopic method for estimation of soil organic carbon. Soil Science Society of America Journal 55: 563-566.

Bowman, R.A., and Moir, J.O. 1993. Basic EDTA as an extractant for soil organic phosphorus. Soil Science Society of America Journal 57: 1516-1518.

Bowman, R.A. 1997. Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter. Conservation Tillage Fact Sheet #5-97. USDA-ARS and NRCS. Akron, CO. Available: www.akron.ars.usda.gov/fs_field.html (accessed April 2006).

Bowman, R.A., and Peterson, M. 1997. Soil Organic Matter Levels in the Central Great Plains. Conservation Tillage Fact Sheet #1-96. USDA-ARS and NRCS, Akron, CO. Available: www.akron.ars.usda.gov/fs_soil.html (accessed April 2006).

Cannon, K.R. 2002. Alberta benchmark site selection and sampling protocols. AESA Soil Quality Resource Monitoring Program. 43pp.

Carter, M.R. (ed.). 1993. Soil sampling and methods of analysis. Lewis Publishers. Boca Raton, Fl. 823 pp.

Janzen H.H., Campbell, C.A., Brandt, S.A., Lafond, G.P., and Townley-Smith, L. 1992. Light-fraction organic matter in soils from long-term crop rotations. Soil Science Society of America Journal 56: 1799-1806.

Karlen, D.L., Mausbach, M.J., Doran, J.W., Cline, R.G., Harris, R.E., and Schuman, G.E. 1997. Soil Quality: a concept, definition and framework for evaluation. Soil Science Society of America Journal 61: 4-10.

Leskiw, L.A., Yarmuch, M.S., Waterman, L.P., and Sansom, J.J. 2000. Baseline soil physical and chemical properties of forty-three soil quality benchmark sites in Alberta. A report submitted to the AESA Soil Quality Monitoring Program. Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. Edmonton, AB. 175 pp.

McKeague, J.A. (ed). 1978. Manual on soil sampling and methods of analysis. Second edition. Subcommittee on Methods of Analysis. Canadian Soil Survey Committee. Canadian Society of Soil Science. Ottawa, Ont. 212 pp.

Mendenhall, W. 1983. Introduction to probability and statistics. Sixth edition. PWS Publishers. Duxbury Press. Boston, MA. 646 pp.

National Research Council (NRC). 1993. Soil and Water Quality: An Agenda for Agriculture. National Academy Press. Washington, D.C. 516 pp.

USDA. 1999. Soil Quality Test Kit Guide. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service-Soil Quality Institute. (reference:soils.usda.gov/sqi/soil_quality/assessment/kit2.html) (accessed April 2006).

USDA. 2001a. Soil Quality-Introduction. Soil Quality Information Sheet. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service-Soil Quality Institute. Available: www.soils.usda.gov/sqi/files/sq_one_1.pdf. (accessed April 2006).

USDA. 2001b. What is Soil Quality? United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service-Soil Quality Institute. (reference: soils.usda.gov/sqi/soil_quality/index.html) (accessed April 2006).

University of Alberta. 2002. Soil Analytical Methods. University of Alberta Department of Renewable Resources. Available: www.rr.ualberta.ca/Research/Facilities/NRAL/Index.asp?Page=SoilAnalysis (accessed April 2006).

Weil, R.R., Islam, K.R., Stine, M.A., Gruver, J.B., and Sampson-Liebeg, S.E. 2003. Estimating active carbon for soil quality assessment: A simplified method for laboratory and field use. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture 18 (1): 3-17.

 
 
 
 

Other Documents in the Series

 
  Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter In Alberta Soils: Abstract
Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter In Alberta Soils: Introduction
Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter In Alberta Soils: Results and Discussion
Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter In Alberta Soils: Conclusions and References - Current Document
Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter In Alberta Soils: Appendix 1 - Methodologies for Field Tests
Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter In Alberta Soils: Appendix 2 - Lab Procedures for LFC and OM (%)
Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter In Alberta Soils: Appendix 3 - Tests for Variability in Methodology
Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter In Alberta Soils: Appendix 4 - Procedure for Active C Test
Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter In Alberta Soils: Appendix 5 - Procedure for Basic EDTA Test
Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter In Alberta Soils: Appendix 6 - Descriptive Statistics for Results of Active C Methods
Evaluation of Two Field Methods to Estimate Soil Organic Matter In Alberta Soils: Appendix 7 - Descriptive Statistics for Results of Basic EDTA Method
 
 
 
 
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This information published to the web on April 30, 2004.
Last Reviewed/Revised on January 16, 2015.