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Fifteen soil and plant laboratory experts from nine countries recently met at the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute in Taichung, Taiwan to further enhance their skills on the determination of nutrient contents in soil and plant tissue proficiency testing program. Scientists from Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and United States gathered to exchange experiences on soil and tissue plant analysis in the region.

In agriculture, soil tests and plant analysis are known as efficient and direct tools to determine soil fertility and nutrient status of crops. In view of best understanding the information of soil/plant to enhance crop production, laboratories for soil/plant testing are recently established or installed in several countries. However, the performance of laboratories involved with analysis methods, quality assurance and/or quality control (QA/QC), and data interpretation are all very critical to the success of nutrient diagnosis and fertilizer recommendation to farmers.

Inter-laboratory comparison

FFTC and the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute jointly organized this workshop to upgrade inter-laboratory comparison (proficiency tests) in order to get certification or accreditation for analytic quality laboratories. Topics covered testing methods, QA/QC and data interpretation and application. Prior to the workshop, participants were requested to conduct their own proficiency testing program (PT program) of soil and plant tissue analysis in their respective laboratories.

With the advancement of information technology, by combination with GIS and ICT technologies, soil/plant testing data not only can be applied in soil fertility diagnosis, but also in site-specific nutrient management, soil qualities change monitoring, land use planning, and so on. Through exchanging experiences in soil/plant testing and inter-laboratory comparison of soil/plant testing results, the reliability of testing data can be ensured and the quality of soil/plant testing laboratories can be improved. It is expected to further ensure yield/quality of food production and environmental sustainability.

Based on the discussions after the workshop paper presentations, some of the issues raised were the procedure for soil and groundwater remediation process, making national reports for soil testing data, government control of chemical materials, development of laboratory information management systems, use and dissemination of soil testing kits, to name a few.
The discussions yielded eight major recommendations from the speakers and participants:

1.    Add more sessions on soil and plant tissue analysis and consider other sampling techniques in future workshops;
2.    Continue the PPT program, set mechanisms and consider doing the exchange of scientists in the Asian Pacific region;
3.    Use cycles in the number of analysis in doing soil proficiency tests to get more accurate results;
4.    Establish mechanisms to keep track of fertilizer recommendation rates and guidelines for fertilizer use;
5.    Conduct training programs for young scientists to inculcate a deeper appreciation of soil science and soil laboratory techniques;
6.    Develop strategies to gather more laboratory staff to share their knowledge and experiences in PT;
7.    Strategize ways to convince more farmers to develop their interest in soil testing; and
8.    Encourage the formation of communities or network or soil scientists to share and update information on soil science and related technologies.

At the end of the second-day workshop, the speakers and participants visited the soil research building. They were introduced to TARI’S Agricultural Chemistry laboratory soil testing equipment and methods. They were also toured to the Taiwan Soil Museum.

Exposure and educational tours

The following day, the speakers and participants visited the Great Agriculture Company, a Taiwan  company mainly which produces corn, carrots, and lettuce. There, they met the company CEO, Ms. Hsiung who gave them a brief introduction of her company and discussed consumers’ food safety with safe farming philosophy and use non-GMO seeds with soil-friendly farming practice. In the afternoon, the workshop participants and TARI and FFTC staff visited the Tea Research and Extension Station (TRES) Yuchi Branch. Mr. Yen-Shuo Su, the Associate Researcher and the Head of Tea Processing Section, led us to their Research Station and gave a brief introduction of the TRES’ history, main goals, tea tree cultural management, and the tea museum.

FFTC Director Dr. Kuo-Ching Lin delivers his welcome remark at the workshop’s opening ceremonies emphasizing that even if there are many existing laboratories for soil and plant testing in different parts of the world, many people working in those labs still lack the knowledge and skills on analysis methods, data interpretation, etc. Hence, the need to conduct a workshop on the subject.

Fourteen speakers from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and the United States grace this year’s International Workshop on Soil and Plant Tissue Analysis last September 12-13 at the TARI headquarters in Taichung, Taiwan. One of the strong recommendations of the workshop is to encourage the formation of communities or network of soil scientists to share and update information on soil science and related technologies.

Prof. Dr. Carrie Laboski, of the Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison USA is the keynote speaker of the workshop. She delivers her presentation entitled “History, Ongoing Development and Adoption of Nutrient Application Guidelines: Wisconsin USA as a Case Study.”

The workshop speakers and participants visit the Taiwan Tea Research and Extension Station in Yuchi Township, Nantou as part of their educational trip. They also observe and interact with officers and members of agricultural cooperatives, farmers associations and a private vegetable agriculture company.