SERA6: Methodology, Interpretation, and Implementation of Soil, Plant, Byproduct, and Water Analyses

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

SERA6: Methodology, Interpretation, and Implementation of Soil, Plant, Byproduct, and Water Analyses

Duration: 10/01/2022 to 09/30/2027

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Statement of Issues and Justification

The mission of the Southern Extension and Research Activities Information Exchange Group (SERA-IEG-6) is to disseminate the understanding, and interpretation of soil, plant, byproduct, and water analyses and their proper application to land and resource management in the Southern USA through unbiased, science-based, and data-driven information.  It relentlessly works to be the reference point of agronomic, environmental, and resource management testing.

The SERA-IEG-6 is a cooperative effort among the Southern states for the following purposes. (1) It develops, modifies, and document reference analytical procedures; (2) encourage uniformity in the soil test correlation/calibration/interpretation process for the development of nutrient and resource management guidelines among geographic areas that share similar soils, climate, and environmental concerns; (3) encourage both analytical proficiency and adequate quality assurance/quality control for laboratories in the Southern Region of the United States that perform nutrient analyses; (4) provide unbiased scientific reasoning for the use and interpretation of soil, plant, byproduct, and water analyses and its application to resource management, and (5) facilitate the dissemination of research data and educational materials among public institutions, laboratories, and other entities that use the information generated from soil, plant, byproduct, and water analyses. These objectives are realized by the dissemination of information and identification of critical issues by use of annual technical meetings, committee involvement, task force development, publications, and personal communication among representatives and other interested parties.

Accurate and timely analyses of soil, plant, byproduct, and water using appropriate analytical and interpretation procedures are required with the current emphasis on nutrient management and its impact on the environmental quality in both rural and urban areas. Nutrient management issues have a high priority at the local, regional, and national levels, and a number of institutions, organizations, and agencies cooperate to ensure the economic sustainability of production agriculture and industrial activities while striving to maintain a healthy environment. Effective nutrient management serves commercial agriculture and the public by ensuring soil amendments are used based on science-based test recommendations. Constant changes in technology dictate the need to continuously reevaluate analytical methods, interpretation of information, and problem-solving approaches to improve nutrient utilization by crops and loss of nutrients to the environment.

This proposal is a request for the renewal of the current SERA6 active project that is set to expire on 09/30/2022. Minimum updates are included in the current proposal. The Southern Extension and Research Activity Information Exchange Group 6 (SERA-IEG-6) has been active for many decades. It has immensely contributed to the science of agricultural and environmental-related analysis. It has become the reference source of analytical methods and interpretations.  SERA-6 has been conducting annual meetings since 1954 for its member public labs for experiential learning and sharing information among its members and others.  Although it will be difficult to document each and every activity of SERA-6, its website ( provides information on its members, state labs, annual reports, meeting minutes, presentations, publications, and other useful information.
Some of its accomplishments in the previous years are:

  1. A website is updated and maintained with meeting minutes, memberships, presentations, publications, fact sheets, meeting sites, photo galleries, resolutions, and white papers (

  2. A Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin on “Soil Test Methods from the Southeastern United States” was published (

  3. A Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin on “Procedures Used by State Soil Testing Laboratories in the Southern Region of the United States” was updated (

  4. A SERA-6 representative provided leadership to the North American Proficiency Testing (NAPT) Committee as chair-elect 2013-2014, chair 2015-2016, and past chair 2017-2018.

  5. SERA-6 expressed concerns over the adoption and promotion of new soil testing methods to evaluate soil health by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)-USDA without involving the soil testing community of the land-grant university system, which is highly regarded as an unbiased source of information for producers. To convey the group’s concerns to NRCS and later to university leadership, SERA-6 issued the following:

    1. The membership sent a letter to Jason Weller, Chief of NRCS, stating that the soil health tests offered to growers lack scientific principles and recommendations from soil health test results were not clearly validated to enhance crop productivity.

    2. A report entitled “Soil Health Measurements and Interpretations: Public Labs’ Concerns and Issues” was written and shared with members and advisors to inform and promote discussion with various University leaders in the southern region.

  6. SERA-6 representatives attended the USDA-NRCS Soil Health Division and the Soil Health Institute Conference to talk about the indicators needed for a Soil Health Assessment at Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK on Feb 22-24, 2016.

  7. A SERA-6 representative provided leadership by co-chairing a subcommittee on soil methodologies and capacities of commercial/public laboratories coordinated by the Soil Health Institute.

  8. A SERA-6 member wrote articles on Soil Health in two Soil and Plant Analysis Council (SPAC) Newsletters, discussing the need for SERA-6 and other similar regional groups to work together and address concerns about NRCS’s soil health program.

  9. SERA-6 had a joint virtual meeting with other regional groups (NCERA-13 and NECC-1012) on June 15, 22, and 29, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Major topics discussed included soil health measurements, manure N & P prescription, test methods for soil potassium (K), hemp analysis, soil test calibration, and P and K database management.

  10. SERA-6 worked closely with the Soil and Plant Analysis Council (SPAC). Four members attended the 15th International Symposium on Soil and Plant Analysis held in Nanjing, China on May 14-18, 2017; SPAC co-hosted this symposium, and a larger number attended the 16th SPAC during June 17-20, 2019, in Wageningen, The Netherlands.

  11. A subcommittee formed to promote education for well water testing resulted in more active water testing programs of some member laboratories along with robust extension publication efforts; University of Georgia ( and Clemson University, South Carolina are examples of states with expanding water testing programs.

  12. Two member universities are engaged in international agricultural development: the University of Georgia is involved with improving fertilizer testing in Vietnam and Auburn University has established a soil testing laboratory and has been working to include water testing in Cape Haitien, Haiti.

  13. No annual meeting was held during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  14. Due to increased interest on to grow commercial hemp, SERA-6 members are conducting research and gathering data for agronomic production. Two member universities have been leading the way in developing laboratory proficiency test of hemp (University of Kentucky) and interpretation of nutrient levels in hemp tissue test (North Carolina State University). These topics are the focus of recent SERA-6 and joint regional meetings. 

  15. The 2022 annual meeting resumed in-person format was hosted by the Universityof Tennsessee in Nashville TN during June 6-8. The 2023 annual meeting has been planned in Alabama and will be hosted by Auburn University.

  16. A website committee has been set up following recent meetings in Nashville and will be in charge of updating SERA-6 website.


  1. To provide soil, forage, plant, water, etc., test services for clientele and stakeholders,
  2. To create, develop, modify and ascertain analytical procedures used in soil, plant, manure, water, and agricultural and environmental related products,
  3. To improve, update, unify and calibrate soil test methods and protocols across the region,
  4. To document, publish, disseminate science-based, unbiased analytical methods and interpretations and,
  5. To promote, enhance and facilitate the exchange of information through meetings, social media platforms, and online.
  6. To serve as unbiased testing public information resource to the public consumption.

Procedures and Activities

SERA-6 has established protocols and procedures to execute its missions.  An annual technical meeting will be held in rotation among all participating states including Puerto Rico. SERA-6 joins other regional groups with a similar focus on agricultural testing, Northeast Coordinating Committee on Soil Testing (NECC-1812), and North Central Extension Activities: Soil Testing and Plant Analysis (NCERA-13) once every four years. Committees and Task Forces will be established when necessary to conduct collaborative projects, develop procedures, and generate publications. SERA-6 develops technical papers on important topics and trending issues to share among its members during its annual meeting. A listserve (SERA-IEG-6-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU) and website ( are used to further foster communication among participants and the general public. Members regularly exchange and share information on current issues that are trending and/or the challenges they face at their labs. Public labs are the source of unbiased information on analytical services and as the result, each lab holds many workshops, tours, and demonstrations to promote its services and outreach. In addition to NAPT (North American Proficiency Test) and other sample exchange programs, interlaboratory sample exchange is encouraged. SERA-6 Officers will solicit topics among its members and establish ad-hoc committees to exhaustively study the subject and produce a publication. 

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • SERA-6 will revise a methods manual on soil test methods used in the Southeastern USA. New methods especially with the inclusion of soil quality and health issues and emerging agronomic activities have necessitated the need for a new publication.
  • Update existing fact sheet publications and add new ones as needed.
  • Publications on laboratory methodology and interpretation of soil, water, and byproduct analysis will be developed to the current state of knowledge in the area.
  • Previous methods manuals were published in 1983, 1992, and 2013. New updates will be ripe during this project.
  • Develop more uniform testing and interpretation of agricultural and environmental samples in the Southern Region.
  • Publicize and engage the consuming public about changes in agricultural testing, crop production, and protection of the environment through our website and fact sheets.
  • Produce white paper on the importance the public labs in the Southern Region and their significant contributions to the society.
  • Maintain involvement with proficiency testing programs for soil, plant, water, and byproduct analysis that help to improve laboratory performance.
  • The North American Proficiency Testing program of the Soil Science Society of America, the Agriculture Laboratory Proficiency Program, the Manure Analysis Proficiency Program, and others are encouraged.
  • Resolve regional issues in agricultural and environmental testing through rapid communication with other members of the group through the email listserv, by calling targeted meetings and fact checking.
  • Continue to collaborate within SERA-6, with other similar groups and international agencies to address food security and environmental quality. Individual labs will produce their own customer tailored videos, pamphlet, and mass media publication on Facebook, YouTube, podcast, zoom, etc. Each lab works closely with its extension and outreach staff to reach its clients and share the necessary information. As indicated in the Procedures and Activities and summarized in the Issues and Justification, the proposal will continue focusing on discovering and sharing agricultural analytical research with the public at large. SERA-6 will be the leader in contributing ag testing.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

SERA-6 is loaded with science-based information for agricultural test information on soil, plant, water, manure, growth media, and many others. Each state lab has its own website, listserver, and social media presence. Any new and/or "hot" topic is shared among its peer labs for timely dissemination of information. The quality of our environment is dependent on our ability to test accurately and precisely, and the interpretation of data.  Hence, workshops, seminars, webinars, podcasts, etc., will be used effectively to reach the target audience. Since most of the public ag labs are located within land-grant university campuses, all the available communication methods will be used to amplify the necessary message to reach the targeted audiences. 

SERA-6 members exchange information using the group email list, listserv (SERA-IEG-6-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU) frequent on current issues, planning activities, and trending issues related to its missions.  In addition, the SERA-6 website, ( serves as a go-to information archive for all published articles and many other related subjects. Upon request, SERA-6 officers and/or members will make a presentation at workshops, annual meetings, and seminars. SERA-6 has published, "Variation in Soil-Test-Based Phosphorus and Potassium Rate Recommendations Across the Southern USA" in the Soil Science Society of America Journal (SSSAJ)
Education plans are realized through lab tours, research, workshops, presentations at annual meetings, discussion at annual meetings, and through the group's listserve, committee involvement, task force development, and publications. Each lab has its own outreach plans since almost all the labs are associated with agricultural extension and/or experiment stations.
SERA-IEG-6 involves approximately 45 participants representing each of the Southern Region states/territories (except for the Virgin Islands) and three states outside the region (West Virginia, Missouri, and Colorado). 


SERA-6 is administered by elected officers and assigned advisors. A chair, vice-chair, and a secretary make up the executive committee. Currently, a secretary is elected every two years and serves for two years at each position. This has benefited SERA-6 immensely in terms of continuity and experience.  Two administrative advisors who will focus on research and extension with a NIFA representative will oversee the project.  The executive officers can form ad-hoc committees as needed for a specific task(s). Cooperation is expected among the labs the assigned adminstrators.

A website maintained at the University of Georgia is continually updated with meeting dates, meeting minutes, annual accomplishments, publications, issue papers, and laboratory links at Any trending issues that are relevant to SERA-6 will be shared in a timely manner with members through the website and Listserv.

Literature Cited

Sikora, F. and K. Moore (eds.) Soil Test Methods from the Southeastern United States. Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin No. 419 ISBN# 1­58161­419­5 January 2014.

Savoy, H.J.  2013.  Procedures Used by State Soil Testing Laboratories in the Southern Region of the United States.  Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin No. 409.

Zhang, H., J. Antonangelo, J. H. Grove, D. L. Osmond, N. A. Slaton, S. Alford, R. J. Florence, G. Huluka, D. H. Hardy, J. T. Lessl, R. O. Maguire, R. S. Mylavarapu, et al. 2021. Soil-Test-Based Phosphorus and Potassium Rate Recommendations across the Southeastern USA. SSSAJ 2021:1-14.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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