NECC1812: Northeast Coordinating Committee on Soil Testing

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Inactive/Terminating

NECC1812: Northeast Coordinating Committee on Soil Testing

Duration: 10/01/2018 to 09/30/2023

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Statement of Issues and Justification

The Northeast Coordinating Committee on Soil Testing (NECC-1812) works to ensure that soil testing, plant analysis and waste/residual analysis are properly used and interpreted within our region to support sustainable, economic and environmental land use for all who live in the Northeast. The diversity of our region in terms of soils, climate, land use and demographics requires an approach that is appropriate for our needs rather than just adopted “as-is” from elsewhere. Traditional agriculture continues to be practiced throughout the region. Alternative agricultural systems, such a high tunnel production, organic production and new niche crops (e.g., malting barley), continue to expand. Increased urbanization has led to an increase in home gardening, urban landscapes and urban farms. Soil “health” as opposed to soil “fertility” – and the questions on how to evaluate it and what those evaluations mean -- is receiving an increased level of interest in the Northeast and elsewhere. All these changes, combined with the increased recognition of the role of proper nutrient management in environmental and economic sustainability, require that this committee remain actively engaged in efforts to support our clientele. Those efforts may include research to evaluate and update nutrient recommendations for old crops, new crops or new production systems, the development and/or modification of testing protocols for new uses, or the interpretation of test results and development of recommendations for alternative land uses.

At the same time that demand for our efforts continues to grow, staffing at the land grant universities in our region continues to shrink. This situation, therefore, requires a collaborative approach to make the best use of the expertise available. No one institution has all the resources necessary to address emergent and on-going concerns; however, using a team approach across institutions, we are able to leverage the expertise in our region to meet our clients’ needs. Our committee has a history of multistate regional research efforts which we plan to continue going forward. Emergent problems such as the sulfur deficiency now being observed in multiple states will require this collaborative effort to address. This team effort will improve credibility as regional recommendations will not change at “state lines” but rather at the natural boundaries where they should (e.g., where soil changes dictate). Exploring relations with others at our host institutions in the areas of horticulture and extension will enable the committee to better address some of those areas that need our expertise but which have fallen outside the traditional “agronomic” emphasis – areas such as urban horticulture and lawn and landscape management – which increasingly fall under nutrient management regulation.

Meeting the needs of our stakeholders – the growers, the landscapers, the homeowners, the regulators we advise – first requires the sharing of information among ourselves at our annual meetings where evaluations and discussions may focus on methods, instrumentation, field research, local, regional and nations issues, and much more. Contributions to the field include evaluation and vetting of new methods being proposed for adoption in our national proficiency testing programs (e.g., NAPT and ALP) and by commercial laboratories serving our region to ensure that they are appropriate for use in the Northeast region. Outreach to stakeholders takes the form of our regional soil testing methods reference manual which is housed on the committee website, development of regional fact sheets on topics of importance in all or parts of the northeast and publication of regional research. Collaborative work with other regional research committees contribute to activities and publications such as the national manure testing manual. Committee members also continue to provide talks at local, regional and national meetings and training programs on a variety of these topics. At a time when there is much conflicting information available to our stakeholders, it is critical that unbiased, science-based information is researched and made available by committees such as NECC-1812


  1. 1. To improve, standardize, and validate soil, plant, and waste analysis methods used within the Northeastern region of the US.
  2. 2. To improve crop nutrient recommendations based on soil, plant, and waste analysis results, crop management factors, and environmental sustainability.
  3. 3. To provide a forum for discussing and responding to challenges facing soil testing and nutrient management efforts.
  4. 4. To support Extension efforts in soil testing, nutrient management, and related environmental issues.
  5. 5. To serve as an educational resource on the appropriate use and interpretation of soil, plant and waste analysis for the general public, environmental and nutrient management regulators, and the commercial testing industry.

Procedures and Activities

The Committee will include members from the regional land-grant universities with expertise in soil testing, plant and waste analysis, and soil fertility and nutrient management. The Committee will strive to achieve its objectives by:

  1. Meeting annually to discuss advances in soil, plant and waste analysis methods, laboratory instrumentation and data management, nutrient management techniques, issues and policies, and the relevant research and Extension efforts occurring in each state within the region.

  2. Pursuing cooperative research efforts among the participants in the areas of soil testing methodology, soil fertility and field calibration, and nutrient management.

  3. Sharing all soil test calibration and crop nutrient response data among all members on an ongoing basis.

  4. Holding discussions by conference call or e-mail at other times during the year, on issues of immediate importance within the region and serving as a collective resource for all members.

  5. Providing and updating a Committee website as the primary means of improving access to regional soil testing and nutrient management information by others outside the committee.

  6. Interacting with other soil testing and nutrient management communities to promote cooperative efforts on a national scale by meeting jointly every four years with the other regional workgroups, including NCERA-13, SERA-IEG-6, and Western States laboratories. Members also participate in other groups such as MASTPAWG, SPAC, SSSA, ASA and CSA.

  7. The workgroup holds a voting seat on the Oversight Committee of the North American Proficiency Testing Program for Agricultural Laboratories (NAPT). One member is elected to a 3-year term.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • • Discussion, review, and evaluation of soil test phosphorus environmental critical concentrations in relation to proposed cap on phosphorus applications by NRCS for EQIP funded NMPs based on an environmental critical concentration for each state.
  • • Continued updating of Cooperative Bulletin No. 493 Recommended Soil Testing Methods for the Northeastern United States as new methods are developed and validated, and existing methods are revised or improved.
  • • Enhancement of the Committee website to include approved articles and relevant fact sheets on soil metals analysis, plant tissue analysis, compost testing and use, and other topics not included in routine soil fertility testing
  • • Evaluation of the Moore/Sikora Buffer replacement for the Adams/Evans buffer
  • • Exchange of information on soil sulfur testing and sulfur recommendations.
  • • Exchange of information on compost testing and recommended uses of compost especially accumulation of phosphorus from application of compost to increase soil organic matter.
  • • Discussion on the new methodology, interpretation and importance of cation exchange capacity and base saturation in nutrient management
  • • Discussion of the philosophy, science, and regulation behind nutrient recommendations for turf in the region
  • • Review of non-chemical fertilizer recommendations for certified organic farmers and gardeners, with possible production of uniform regional guidelines.
  • • Review of existing soil test methods and recommendations for high tunnel production systems, with possible development of uniform regional guidelines.
  • • Discussion, review, and evaluation of new and existing nitrogen management tools
  • • Evaluate and validate new test method for soil biomass and active carbon.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

The committee will maintain and update online Cooperative Bulletin No. 493 to serve as primary reference and an educational guideline for laboratories serving the region.

Committee members will provide educational presentations at national, regional, and local meetings to communicate new and existing test methods, nutrient management philosophies and tools to all stakeholders in the region.

Regional factsheets will be prepared as a means of disseminating information to various groups including Extension educators, regional laboratories (public and private), commercial growers, commercial landscapers and/or homeowners.


The committee is governed by a Committee Chair and a Secretary selected on a rotational basis from the participating states. A new secretary is selected at the end of the annual meeting at which point the current Secretary becomes Committee Chair for the next 12 months. The Committee Chair is responsible for organizing the annual meeting and planning the agenda. The Secretary records the minutes at the meeting for which he/she is Secretary.

Administrative guidance is provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a CSREES Representative.

Literature Cited

NECC-1012, 2011. Recommended Soil Testing Procedures for the Northeastern United States. 3rd Edition. Northeastern Reg. Bull. No 493. Univ. of Del., Newark, DE.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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