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University of Minnesota Soil Testing Lab Completes Renovations

The University of Minnesota's Soil Testing and Research Analytical Lab has undergone a $3 million renovation. The lab is now has fully modernized infrastructure and work space to fulfill the soil testing needs of the state.

“The lab is really one of the largest service laboratories in the university system,” said Brian Barber, director of the Soil Testing and Research Analytical Lab.

Barber took over the lab six years ago, and in that time tripled the amount of samples going through the lab. He said this renovation will help improve their efficiency even more.

“We have a completely redesigned lab space so that it is much more efficient. This lab grew, and outgrew the facility it was in,” he said. “We needed to have it reorganized.”

Technicians now have a better work flow, plus new and better equipment. The Soil Testing and Research Analytical Lab employs six full-time scientists and two part-time scientists. Six to ten students are also employed at the lab.

“With that new equipment come increases in automation and throughput as well as better detection limits, lower detection limits. We can improve some of the trace level testing that we are asked to do,” he said.

The lab takes samples from both university researchers and local farmers. About 80 percent of the business is with the university and 20 percent is directly with farmers.

By improving efficiency and equipment, the lab can give researchers faster and more accurate results. This in turn improves the quality of their research and the speed of their research. The result is Minnesota farmers have better data to use when making decisions on their own farm.

The more sophisticated lab equipment can detect smaller amounts of minerals in soil and plant tissue. This is beneficial for those wanting to know more about how trace minerals impact a farming operation.

Funding for the renovation came from the legislature through the Education, Extension and Technology Transfer Program (AGREETT). Equipment upgrades were generated by the lab itself, the University of Minnesota and grant writing. The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council was involved in several aspects of this renovation.

Find the full article at Minnesota Farm Guide later this month. Original interview and write-up by Peter Scharpe.

You can find more information at For more information, you can check out their website, email, or call 612-625-3101.

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