Author: Stephen Ockerby provides the best technical information

Solvita tests for soils, compost, manure and grain are developed and manufactured by Woods End Laboratories in Mt. Vernon Maine, USA. Technical information and the latest developments in the USA are available at for those interested in applications of the technology.

Dr. W. F. Briton, the founder of Solvita systems points out the value of volumetric tests of respiration in constructed soil media as a key indicator of its good performance. Measuring volumetric respiration or the exchange of CO2 for O2 per unit volume may give a better representation of the true health of the soil environment.

More-and-more recycled organic composts are being added to potting mixes and soils, so there is a continual need to evaluate the maturity and stability of composts for particular applications.

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Solvita Compost Test included in Australian Standard AS 4454 (2012)

The revised Australian Standard AS4454® (2012) for Composts, soil conditioners and mulches was released on the 29th February 2012. It includes significant revision of the requirements for those businesses implementing the new standard and those claiming compliance with the standard.

Of particular relevance to Solvita® is the requirement to determine the Maturity Index detailed in Appendix N. For classification as either compost or mature compost, materials need to obtain threshold levels in approved tests for both Biological Stability and Plant Growth (Table N3.2 of AS4454).

Meter sor compost maturityThe Solivta Compost Test is an approved method and can supply data for both tests. Importantly, the test can be done at the composting site, and the short incubation time (4 hours) allows an assessment of compost maturity before a sample is despatched for laboratory testing.

Burdekin farmers measure soil microbes

The innovative work of farming is still done in the shed. At a recent meeting in the Burdekin, farmers worked with different field and laboratory methods for measuring soil microbial activity. Their aim was simple, to get data to evaluate their management practices with respect to the health of their soil and the productivity of sugarcane and vegetable crops.

Farmers used the standard Solvita® soil CO2 respiration test to compare sugarcane soils that had received mill mud and ‘biology’ with soils that were farmed conventionally. Microbial activity was enhanced.

Farmers that used this approach commented that phosporus availability had increased 3-fold (as indicated by Colwell-P test) and the new recommendation was not to apply P fertiliser. The challenge now is to reassess crop responses to inputs in new systems of farming where the maintenance and enhancement of soil health is emphasised to achieve both crop yield and the wider benefits of soil-based ecosystems.

The meeting was organised by Tom McShane (standing on left) of the Burdekin Bowen Integrated Floodplain Management Committee to discuss the broader issues of Carbon in Farming. Ken Bellamy of vrm Biologik spoke about applying microbes to the soil and Dr. Steve Ockerby, a freelance scientist, addressed the issue of soil carbon in sugarcane farming systems.