To evaluate the capability and performance of laboratories of soil testing and plant analysis in ASPAC countries, the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center (FFTC) for the Asian and Pacific Region and the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), Council of Agriculture have been jointly holding proficiency testing (Abbreviation as PT) programs of soil testing and plant analysis since 2018. Since PT provides participating laboratories with the opportunity to compare their analysis results with other laboratories, continuing to participate in the PT program will help to improve the capabilities and performance of the participating laboratories. Therefore, the number of laboratories participating in the PT program organized by FFTC and TARI has increased from 25 in 2018 to 61 in 2020.
Soil testing and plant analysis provides the fertility status as a basis for fertilizer recommendation with consideration of the crops’ demand. The fertilizer application based on soil testing and plant analysis data can generally increase the fertilizer use efficiency, which results in high yields of crops with rational inputs. The practice will also produce more organic carbon back to the soil while reducing the loss of nitrogen and phosphorus imposed on the environment, which is important for maintaining water and air quality. Considering all its benefits, proper soil testing and plant analysis should be promoted and utilized throughout the agricultural world.
To continuously enhance the capability and performance of laboratories of soil testing and plant analysis in Asia-Pacific countries, a PT program will once again be held in 2021. In addition, to enable researchers to make good use of soil testing and plant analysis data as a reference for soil fertility management, a workshop concerning data interpretation and fertilizer recommendation will be held. Both the PT program and workshop are consistent with FFTC’s strategic action plan 2021-2024 on theme 3 “promoting climate-smart and resilient agriculture” and theme 4 “fostering circular agriculture.”
An average of 100 participants stayed online in the workshop, including speakers and moderators. 76 of them provided feedback, which is nearly 76% of the total participants’ number. Within the 76 feedbacks, 2 came from the speakers and 74 from the attendees. All 76 feedbacks showed that they are satisfied with the workshop in general, and 81.6% of their jobs are highly relevant to the workshop. The result also showed that all sessions are relevant to the participants who attended, and all participants are satisfied with our logistics. Some speakers' information is very useful, but the accent problem makes some attendees hard to understand their meaning, which might need some help for additional explanation. Overall, the workshop has been found to be highly successful with high satisfaction rating from the attendees.
Dr. Ichirou Uezono, Laboratory Chief of the Kagoshima Prefectural Institute for Agricultural Development in Japan, discussed the simple and rapid analysis method of available nitrogen in the upland soil and appropriate fertilizer application based on diagnosis result. This simple method for measuring available nitrogen uses a chemical oxygen demand kit and gets two days to get results.
Dr. Fritz van Evert, Senior Scientist of Wageningen University in The Netherlands, discussed the use of models and soil/plant observations to generate fertilization recommendations. Citing the case of potatoes, Dr. Evert discussed how the new fertilization method requires access to real-time data, which can only be realized through a dedicated ICT infrastructure to collect, store and transmit data.
In Session 1, Mr. Chu-Chung Chen, Associate Researcher of TARI, presented the results of the final report of the FFTC-TARI Proficiency Testing for this year, revealing that the capability of soil and plant testing for most participants were satisfactory and that the whole program could further the accuracy of the fertilization recommendation and plant nutrition diagnosis in the future.
Dr. Saowanuch Tawornpruek of the Department of Soil Science, Kasetsart University, discussed the site-specific nutrient management technology known as “Tailor-made Fertilizer Technology” or TFT to rice, corn and sugarcane farmers using the concepts of precision agriculture.
Indonesia’s Dr. Arief Hartono of IPB University, talked about the protocol of fertilization recommendations for pepper which is based on soil testing and plant analysis and said the results of their experiment showed that pepper absorbed nitrogen most, and this was followed by potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, etc.
MARDI’s Ms. Faridah Binti Manaf, presented an overview of the soil and plant analysis carried out in Malaysia particularly on the aspect of analytical services and quality control management. She also shared MARDI’s experience in the application of plant and soil analytical data as the key solution to an effective fertilization management system for major crops in Malaysia.
In Vietnam, Mr. Dinh Tien Dzung, Deputy Director of the Centre for Environmental Analysis and Technology Transfer, Institute of Agricultural Environment of VAAS, talked about the laboratory accreditation system in Vietnam and how in 2020, CEAT analyzed 2,000 soil and 400 vegetable samples as they conducted a PT program on heavy metals and pesticide residues.
Dr. Satoshi Nakamura, Senior Researcher of JIRCAS, talked about the identification of soil characteristics using the Deep Learning Technology through spectrum of inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy to give accurate prediction of various soil physico-chemical properties for soil diagnosis. The results of their experiment showed that predictions can be precise, affordable, rapid and also useful as a forecasting tool in soil analysis.
Dr. Yu-Wen Lin, Associate Researcher of TARI, took us on a historical trip from the 1950s when the soil testing methods began in Taiwan, until it evolved up to what it is today. Currently, Dr. Lin reported that TARI regularly analyzes more than 30,000 soil samples per year and has also integrated its soil database to propose and make soil nutrient management maps.
Dr. Gina Nilo, Assistant Director for Operations and concurrent chief of the laboratory services division of the Philippines’ Bureau of Soils and Water Management, talked about the implementation of the national soil health program—its new tools and technologies for soil sampling and testing and the role of soil laboratories in her country.
Three major issues have been discussed in the general discussion hour, including (1) the suggestions for the FFTC-TARI PT program's future development and improvement; (2) international collaboration (relationship with other PT programs or international program and platform to exchange experience or knowledge on fertilization recommendation or its application); and (3) further testing of heavy metal concentration or its training courses.
For the first issue in the discussion, Dr. Chang suggested that TARI and FFTC should communicate with those outliers and ask them to consult with the benchmark laboratories in their country so that within the country among those laboratories, they can help each other to identify the problem of the testing items which does not fit the standard of the average. The purpose of this program is to make those laboratories' results become more accurate and stable so that those laboratories can make accurate fertilization recommendations.
For the second issue, Dr. Chang suggested that for every two to three years, FFTC and TARI can hold a workshop to discuss the results of the PT program and also deliver the new tools and technologies of the soil/ plant tissue/ fertilizer analysis. It was also suggested by Dr. Nilo that those participating countries can collaborate together for a common project or program in which they can compare the resources making use of the test methods that can pass the PT program so that its data can be exchanged and includes the fertilization recommendation into the program. Dr. Saowanuch said although different countries might use different methods of soil testing, the PT program seems useful for experience exchanging.
Dr. Nakamura expressed his interest in the testing of heavy metal concentration in the PT program. If the FFTC-TARI PT program can do further testing of the heavy metal concentration or the training courses, it will contribute to keeping the heavy metal at a safe level, and also, they can give the good data of the heavy metal accumulation internationally. Dr. Chang said the PT project will add a series of small training courses in the future which might be co-organized by FFTC, TARI, and NARO.