Agronomic Services — Historical Highlights
1938 The North Carolina General Assembly allocates funds for a statewide soil testing service to help farmers. 1939 The N.C. Department of Agriculture (NCDA) establishes a Soil Testing Division, with Dr. I.E. Miles as its director. Lab equipment is collected, and sample boxes and mailing cartons are designed. 1940 In January, the NCDA soil testing laboratory begins operation and processes 6,500 samples for aluminum, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, organic matter, and "degree of acidity" during the first year. Educational programs are initiated to assess grower use and understanding of soil test results and recommendations. 1942–44 Laboratory methods are modified: 0.05N HCl is used to extract more potassium and phosphorus. 1948 Werner L. Nelson becomes division director. 1949 The NCDA Soil Testing Division conducts statewide field trials to assess regional fertility differences as well as varying nutrient needs of specific crops. 1950 Dr. J.W. Fitts assumes duties as the new director. Soil type is now identified for all samples. Recommendations are crop specific. 1951 Laboratory acquires a flame photometer and automatic dispensing and titrating equipment. 1952–53 Dr. Adolf Mehlich develops the double-acid extractant, also known as the Mehlich-1. 1954 Dr. Samuel L. Tisdale becomes division director and serves until 1956. 1956 Dr. Eugene Kamprath becomes division director and serves until 1962. 1960–62 Summary data indicate general need for lime. Methods for estimating lime and fertilizer requirements and the soil magnesium test are refined based on field data. 1962–64 Dr. Preston H. Reid becomes division director and serves until 1968. Requests for analysis of trace elements stimulate research on their use. 1966 Manganese determination becomes routine for all soil samples taken from peanut and soybean fields. 1967–68 Computers are now routinely used for data management and storage. Dr. Donald W. Eaddy becomes division director in 1968 and serves through 1998. 1971 Dr. Mehlich initiates research on the lime requirement and on extraction of copper, sulfate sulfur and zinc, eventually producing the buffer pH method (1976), the Mehlich-2 extractant (1978) and the Mehlich-3 extractant (1983). 1973 The Soil Testing Division is renamed "Agronomic Division" to reflect its broader range of services: namely, plant, waste and solution analyses; nematode assay; and field services. 1974 The division hires its first regional agronomist to help growers optimize use of soil testing services. 1984 The importance of using lime is strongly emphasized along with the economic and environmental benefits of soil testing. 1986 Seven additional regional agronomists are hired to help growers implement effective soil testing programs. 1994 A laboratory information management system (LIMS) is implemented to capture and transfer all data electronically. 1995 The NCDA&CS laboratory is the first in the nation to make its soil test reports available online via the Internet. 1998 N.C. Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources' Division of Water Quality certifies the NCDA&CS lab to provide soil testing that complies with state animal waste regulations. 1998–99 Lab analyzes a record number (312,335) of soil samples. Six additional regional agronomists are hired to advise growers about agronomic services. Dr. Richard C. Reich assumes division directorship in March 1999. 2004 USDA-NRCS grant for new equipment enables lab to increase daily productivity by 15%. 2005 Dr. Colleen M. Hudak-Wise assumes division directorship in June 2005. 2006 The soil lab undergoes a major renovation, including the installation of more highly efficient, sample-drying equipment. 2007 The soil lab analyzes a record high number (333,512) of samples. 2008 The soil lab breaks its 2007 record for number (353,848) of samples analyzed. 2010 The Agronomic Division is awarded the Public Sector STAR safety designation from the N.C. Department of Labor.