Joining in for the second episode of the Diggin’ In Podcast are Rick and Liz Haney who are no strangers in protecting soil microbiome and fighting for the farmer’s bottom line.
Shortly after focusing his attention on soil science at Texas A&M, Rick developed the Haney Soil Test. After working on a few farms and then starting graduate school, Rick said he quickly learned how expensive fertilizer inputs were for farmers and geared his efforts to helping farmers.
“In my effort to want to help farmers, I started looking at soil testing methods and I realized they all didn’t line up with how nature viewed things,” Rick says. “So, I began studying how soil works and how we can best incorporate that into soil test.”
Studying soil in the lab is great for quick answers, but Rick added if those answers can’t be applied in the field where things happen, then what are we really looking at?
“The goal was to mimic what’s happening in the field so that down the road the soil can tell us what it needs instead of us deciding for it,” Rick says, adding in 1996 he first began studying soil respiration and then in 2008 the test was picked up by the NRCS.
The rest is history, but for decades the Haney Test has been estimating microbial nutrients and studying carbon and nitrogen levels in the soil. Organic matter isn’t life, but rather organic matter that offers the chance to look at what nutrient cycling is doing.
“Anything that we found in the organic nitrogen pool that wasn’t ever measured is money in the farmers pocket,” Rick says. “It takes years to move organic matter, but the Haney test looks more at the overall dynamic system.”
Liz shared that the test results include recommendations on macronutrients, micronutrients and sometimes nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium recommendations as well as carbon and nitrogen ratios for the farmer.
Adoption to the test has rapidly expanded within the last few decades. “Receiving awards from USDA for the test is one thing, but my driving factor has always been showing that twenty dollar per acre savings on nitrogen and the impact that has when farmers talk to others,” Rick says, adding that especially today as nitrogen prices have nearly doubled. The test just isn’t an excellent resource for farmers, but the entire agriculture industry is adopting to the tests and recommendations.
“America is starting to demand better quality food right now and the industry is asking how we can do things better,” Rick says, mentioning that this set of soil tests is a great step as the industry strives for healthier alternatives.
Closing the conversation, Liz added that if anyone is interested in learning more about the Haney Soil Test to reach out to either her or Rick online or by calling Lance Gunderson with the Regen Ag Lab, LLC.