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What Laboratory Services Division Has To Offer: Pursuing Analytical Services To Advance BSWM Mandate

By Luz Divina R. Sison – February 20, 2012

The Laboratory Services Division provides analytical services to farmers and the general public and supports the different division activities like soil classification, mapping and correlation studies for identification of the proper management measures to mitigate soil and water limitations. The division which consists of five sections is headed by Dr. Gina P. Nilo. The Chemical Analysis Section conducts analysis of soil, water, fertilizer and plant tissues. The Soil Test Kit section produces and sells soil testing kits for rapid determination of the fertilizer status of soils. The data obtained form the basis for appropriate fertilizer/lime recommendations for various crops, specific to soils and climate conditions. The Chemical Analysis Section offers variety of soil analytical services. Routine soil testing for fertilizer recommendation is the most common request by clients. But soil test results are being used today mainly to assess the general fertility status of a cultivated soil, rather than only as a basis for fertilizer recommendation. Soil characterization is a more comprehensive work where analysts conduct complete chemical and physical analyses on several samples taken from soil profiles from the surface to a depth of about one meter. The Physical Analyses Section determines the textural class, bulk density, hydraulic conductivity , water retention, etc. of the soil. The results obtained give information about the soil as basis for crop adaptability, land use capability and other fertility management practices. Characterization data are also used in the taxonomic classification of soils. Based on the similarity of the chemical/physical properties, soils can also categorized as to order, suborder, etc.

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Soils found along coastline areas by sea water or breeze and low lying areas, accumulate excessive deposits of calcium and magnesium salts. These soils are subjected to salinity/alkalinity tests, the results of which form the basis of correction or remedial measures to make the areas productive.

Water analysis is conducted to determine the fitness of water for irrigation purposes. Adequate and good waterfor irrigation is vital in crop production, therefore chemical tests are necessary to have good quality of water to use for irrigating crops. It is also possible to determine the primary and micro elements in water.

Fertilizer assay has a very important role in increased production. We can now check the guaranteed analysis on the fertilizer bags, because some unscrupulous manufacturers/dealers sell products that do not contain the correct guarantee. The sale of anomalous fertilizers has been averted ever since fertilizer analysis was initiated by the Bureau.

Crop nutrient uptake is a good guide or index of the fertilizer requirement of crops and is helpful in updating the fertilizer requierement of plants. Plant parts are analyzed to determine how much of the nutrients are taken up by the plant from the soil, whether said nutrients are native in the soil or applied as fertilizers.

The Soil Biology Section is in charge of soil inoculants production. A strain of bacteria or rhizobia is used to inoculate the seeds of legumes to enable the roots of the plants to form root nodules, capable of fixing nitrogen from the air to provide the nitrogen in the fertilization of legumes. The soil inoculant is a cheap substitute for nitrogen in the fertilization of legumes. Related to this is the assessment of microbial population in soil, water and various organic materials. In support to organic based agriculture, Compost Fungus Activator (CFA) using Trichodermae harzianum is also produced by the Section, to hasten the decomposition of farm wastes.

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The Laboratory has a schedule of charges which is imposed on analytical and products depending on the request. There is corresponding fee for every kind of test.

To ensure the smooth and efficient delivery of services, the Technical Equipment Section attends to the proper care and upkeep of laboratory equipment. Equipment like pH meters, electrical conductivity meters, and weighing balances should be periodically checked and calibrated. The atomic absorption spectrophotometers, UV-VIS spectrophotometer, flamephotometer, Kjeldahl digester and distillation set-ups and NCS analyzer have to be properly maintained. The water still and fumehood have to be washed and cleaned regularly to ensure handling and shelf-keeping and chemicals hazardous to health but also negligence in the upkeep and maintenance of laboratory equipment and facilities.

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