Soybean Farmers Benefit from U of M Laboratories Accreditation

The University of Minnesota Soil Testing and Research Analytical Laboratories has gained Approved Chemists status for soybean measurements with the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS).

The Approved Chemist Program recognizes the laboratory as an accomplished participant in the Laboratory Proficiency Program (LPP), based on performance from 2014-2015. This is an extremely high accreditation because AOCS has been serving top research programs since 1909.

This recognition was made possible with the support of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC). A grant from the soybean checkoff played a role in this achievement. The goal of the grant was to fund improvement of research measures and to save farmers money.

Brian Barber, Director of the Soil Testing and Research Analytical Laboratories, said that farmers benefit by being able to place the highest level of trust in measurements. Additionally, the lab can accurately measure and detect lower concentrations of protein content, fatty acids, high oleic and low linoleic acid and other measures that can specifically profit soybean producers.

“Our status as an Approved Chemist is important to farmers for many reasons,” Barber said. “The accredited standard procedure serves to reduce error. By participating in the program, it brings creditability, higher quality control and quality assurance in testing samples and access to certified standard reference material. To ensure the highest quality, all samples are compared to the known value and are tested according to the highest standards.”

He also added that by having the ability to do these tests in-state, farmers are saving a lot of money.

The University of Minnesota Soil Testing and Research Analytical Laboratories are two laboratory units working together as one. Beginning on campus in 1949, the two organizations joined together in the mid-1980s. Housed at the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, the lab tests approximately 7,000-10,000 soil samples per year, making them the largest testing service at the college. The laboratory is certified by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

The MSR&PC played an important role in the lab when three years ago many staff were offered early retirement. The council funded staff positions and worked for the higher accreditation for the lab. MSR&PC has been involved in discussions for the AOCS certification from the start and throughout the entire process. Conversation of the need and benefits of the program started January 2013 and lasted until approval in 2015.

Accreditation is important for the lab in order to have a good reputation, be consistent with established processes, create a repeatable process, have highly trusted information that is accurate, follows scientific process and is repeatable.

The Soil Testing and Research labs work closely with Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIR) lab at the University of Minnesota, but the two departments are actually separate labs with separate funding. MSR&PC’s investments don’t encompass the U of M NIR lab, which generates its own income to perform NIR sample testing. NIR testing allows researchers to derive the formula on measurements to scan thousands of soybeans for properties looking for and determining how good the variety is.

Council members will have the opportunity to visit the Soil Testing and Research Analytical labs for a tour and presentation to see the advancements and wise investment of checkoff dollars.