Earth Day: All Year Long

What is Earth Day and what does it mean today? Earth Day 2021 is Thursday, April 22. The theme this year is “Restore the Earth.” If this year’s theme is “Restore the Earth,” it must mean that somewhere along the way – our actions have harmed the Earth. To me, this is the day we reflect on our impact on the earth; learn how we can improve the earth; and sound a call to action.

Did you know that our first Earth Day was April 22, 1970? Growing up in the 80s, my memory of Earth Day was about protecting natural resources and endangered species, planting more of everything, and reducing the use of fossil fuels. The focus was a preventative message here in the US. But today, Earth Day has a totally different message of specifics and restoration details – regenerative agriculture, carbon sequestration, restoration technologies — and involves the global population with call to action from the government leaders.

How do we write our Earth Day legacy? On a personal level, I have a duty to teach my children what Earth Day is. I have four children and I asked each of them what Earth Day meant to them. My 16-year daughter responded that we need to recycle and take care of the earth. My 10-year old and 14 year old both told me the same thing – it is the one day where you clean up the earth. Finally, I asked my 7-year old son and he had no idea we had Earth Day. These conversations are the reason we need to instill the principles of Earth Day into our children. They are born not knowing that their actions cause reactions, but with instruction and teachable moments, we can equip them to be environmentally conscious and aware that what they do today is left as our legacy.

Climate change is happening and it is something I include in my work life. I work at Agritech Corp. and we have a lab-based soil sample product called SoilKit. How can SoilKit participate in Earth Day and leave an environmental legacy? SoilKit helps homeowners and landscapers improve soil health which in term creates great lawns and gardens and helps the environment too. As we watch the largest dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico grow and the manatees die, we can’t help but know that there is something we are doing that we can change. Lack of knowledge creates inadvertent misuse of soil amendments and is often the culprit.

Phosphorus runoff is one of the factors that contributes to both those issues. Yet many people buy fertilizers without consideration for what the soil and the plants actually need. We should be checking our pH levels and phosphorus levels to know if it is available and whether or not it is even needed. Science and knowledge is power. Your actions have reactions. SoilKit users know when a nutrient is essential but also know when phosphorus is high. Consequently, we often recommend 0-phosphorus fertilizers.

Recent algae blooms in the U.S. can be linked to two main causes: increased nutrients in the water and warmer weather. Photo credit: Zachary Haslick/Aerial Association, Inc.

Another great environmental feature of SoilKit is organic matter analysis. Why is organic matter correlated to Earth Day? According to the USDA, “Soil organic matter (SOM) is the organic component of soil consisting of three primary components: small (fresh) plant residues with small living soil organisms, decomposing (active) organic matter, and stable organic matter (humus).” SoilKit measures and report this information back to the user. Organic matter is organic carbon times two. According to Tonya McDaniels at Waters Lab, “In general, you want to have higher organic matter which gives you higher carbon levels. This allows CO2 respiration so your soil can omit oxygen and absorb CO2. Which is in the end better for our environment.” Tonya said it best. Let’s focus on getting healthy soils with good organic matter levels to capture more carbon from the legacy load that we now are working to restore.

On this Earth Day, April 22, 2021, I am educating the next generation, my four young children, to understand Earth Day and why it is important to restore with recycling, energy, cleanup and so much more. I am also working on a SoilKit project at work to explain how a lab-based soil sample is more than just dirt – it is science that is sequestering carbon and preventing misuse and abuse of nutrients such as phosphorus. Both have a lasting legacy for Earth Day 2021 and it is important we keep Earth Day going all year round. 🌎

High pH and its Effects on Your Plants

If your soil is in the alkaline range, you might need to seek help. Alkaline, or basic, is defined as any value on the pH scale (0-14) above a neutral of 7.0. Most alkaline soils are found in the western United States, where the pH of these soils can get as high as 10.0. A soil pH above 8.5 indicates the presence of sodium in your soil. These are known as “sodic” soils and can contain so much excess sodium that these soils become impermeable to water. It is most common that you will find alkaline soils in arid or dry areas like a desert. This is why it is more common to find acidic soils in residential areas since few plants tend to thrive in the desert.

Most alkaline soils are primarily caused by a calcium carbonate rich environment. An alkaline soil can be bad for your plant because the availability of many plant nutrients like iron, zinc, copper, and manganese is reduced at high pH levels (usually exceeding 7.0). This can lead to iron deficiency in plants which causes leaves to yellow, while the veins remain green.

Dr. David Han, associate professor and extension specialist (turf) Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences faculty at Auburn University, explained that resolving a pH that has become too high is tricky. Dr. Han said, “If a soil is too alkaline it can be done, it’s easy to overshoot, though.” You can try adding sulfur to your soil, which will produce sulfuric acid and make the soil more acidic, however by doing this, you are gambling with overshooting and making your soil too acidic rather than a more neutral pH level. Dr. Han recommended instead that you turn toward your fertilizer to solve the problem: “The way I usually tell people to make their alkaline soil more acidic is to make sure that when they fertilize they use a fertilizer that has ammonium sulfate in it.” The ammonium sulfate will help bring the pH down in your soil gradually without the risk of overdoing it. These fertilizers may be hard to come by, though, unless you make a special order.

This is when a soil test comes in handy. A soil test will tell you your soil’s pH by measuring the concentration of hydrogen ions in the soil. By understanding what level on the scale your soil has, experts are able to recommend alternative solutions for you.

Low pH and its Effects on Your Plants

Is your soil acidic? Although this might sound bad, in some cases, it is actually what is best for your plant. Whether you are just a beginner, a seasoned professional, or farming for fun, understanding your soil’s pH is crucial to growing a healthy lawn or garden.

If you find that your soil’s pH is on the lower side, no worries! Depending on the plant you are growing, a slightly lower pH might be a good thing. According to Dr. Han, associate professor and extension specialist (turf) Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences faculty at Auburn University, “A lot of plants actually benefit from acidic soil. Most plants are going to grow better at a slightly acidic pH (somewhere in the range of 6-7).” One of the main regions that you will find acidic soil is the southeast because of the location’s humidity. If the plant you are growing thrives better in alkaline conditions, however, there is an easy fix!

Lower pH

Low pH is defined as any value on the pH scale (numbered 0-14) that is less than a neutral 7.0, making it acidic. Understanding your soil’s pH is important because it is what affects the amounts of nutrients that are soluble in water, and therefore, the amount of nutrients available for your plant. As Dr. Han explained it, “The way [plants] pick up most of the nutrients they need is from water. If the nutrients aren’t dissolving in the water in the soil, the plants can’t get the nutrients.” Essentially, pH is what dictates the source of nutrients available in your soil. This is why it’s important to maintain a balanced pH of between 6-7.5 for most lawns and gardens. Some nutrients, like iron, are more soluble in acidic soil, and therefore more available under those conditions, while other nutrients, like potassium and sulfur, are more soluble in alkaline soils, and therefore more available under those conditions. 

So, which plants thrive under acidic conditions exactly? Well, there are actually many different plants that love acid; such as, radishes, blueberries, azaleas, magnolias, and marigolds. To see a full list of 43 acid-loving plants, visit this site. In addition to this, some flowers, like hydrangeas, change color depending on soil pH!

If you want to watch your hydrangea turn from pink to blue or blue to pink, seek an acidic soil!
Higher pH

Although this may sound great, Dr. Han explained that if the pH becomes too acidic, the plant will not thrive. He said, “No plant can thrive if [its soil] gets too acidic. This is why a soil test is so important.” For lawns and grasses, a pH of about 5.5 or lower, is where you reach trouble. A soil test can tell you exactly what your soil’s pH is, and recommend remedies for a pH that is harmful for your plant.

By adding limestone to your soil you can efficiently reach the optimal pH level for your plant.

Let’s say you get your results back and your pH is too low for your plant’s liking, well in this case, you might need to adjust it. A common way to raise your soil’s pH is to add limestone. Dr. Han said, “When the pH gets down to below about 5.6, that’s usually when soil testing labs will give you a recommendation to add limestone to the soil.” The reason for this is that limestone is a great source of calcium carbonate; which, funny enough, is the active ingredient in Tums. The calcium carbonate in limestone works by directly neutralizing the acid in your soil. Snail shells, oyster shells, and as strange as it sounds, pearls are all great sources of calcium carbonate too.

Acidic soil has its benefits and drawbacks, but ultimately, the best way to understand your soil’s pH and resolve any issues that might inhibit your plant from thriving, is by investing in a soil test

The Importance of Pre-Emergents and Weed Prevention

As the air warms up and we transition to springtime, you may notice some weeds beginning to “spring” up in your lawn. A pre-emergent herbicide is the most efficient way to rid your lawn of pesky weeds. Pre-emergent herbicides allow the weed to germinate but attach to it before it emerges. Once the cap root shoots up, the weed takes in the chemical and dies. As Mr. Allen Woerner, owner of Woerner Farms, said ”Rather than getting a sip of water, [your weed] gets a sip of chemical.” This is a better option than a post-emergent herbicide because it kills the weed before the weed becomes a problem. The seed must be active in the soil, however, before you can effectively disseminate your herbicide.

According to Mr. Woerner, 93% of your lawn’s weed problem can be controlled by pre-emergents. When you use post-emergent herbicides, it is often too late to tackle the problem, because the weed is already out and growing. Mr. Woerner does recommend, however, that you spray a post-emergent herbicide 2 days after pre-emergent treatment, to help catch any escapees. As for any weed and feed product, he argues that this is not a viable solution for weed control. “One is trying to kill and the other is trying to nurse back to health.” It is not the most effective way to manage weeds.”

Mr. Woerner’s recommendation for the best pre-emergent herbicides is Ronstar which he says is “the most favorable [and the] safest pre-emergent out there that can be used on all grasses.” As for how much to use, you should be able to find this recommendation on the label! You can spray your lawn using a backpack sprayer or spread the granular version via a spreader.

Spray a post-emergent herbicide 2 days after pre-emergent treatment, to help catch any escapees.

So, when should I be applying pre-emergents to be most effective in eliminating spring weeds? Mr. Woerner said it all depends on temperature, but it is safe to say that “any time late February you need to be rockin and rollin” here in south Alabama. You should spray your lawn with pre-emergents between the transition from spring to summer. Then, you should wait until fall goes into winter to spray again. Mr. Allen explained that this gap period is when you should be using post-emergent control.

Humidity and temperature are some other major factors that must be considered while trying to figure out when to spray. According to Mr. Allen, it is best to spray in high humidity. Additionally, there is a specific temperature range at which you should spray your lawn with pre-emergents. That range is 65-75 degrees. If you spray when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees, the pre-emergent will burn your lawn on contact. This is why it is important to “water in” your pre-emergent within 24 hours to prevent burning. “Watering in” essentially means that you provide your lawn with plenty of water following a treatment. Mr. Woerner continued, “[You need] at least a quarter inch of water or a half inch of rain within 24-48 hours to activate [the] pre-emergent, and prevent your lawn from burning.”

If you use too much pre-emergent on your lawn, you may experience some “jumpers.” Mr. Woerner explained, “If you get over a pint and a half per acre, the roots are not able to peg into the ground and they will shoot skyward and make an arch. These are known as jumpers.” One downside to using pre-emergents at incorrect rates is that this will usually set back your root pruning. Mr. Allen argued, however, “[It] is way more favorable to hurt your root than to have a yard full of weeds during the summer; [and] post-emergents will actually be more harmful.” Over-spraying your lawn is usually difficult and expensive to reverse. Applying (a large amount of) carbon will reverse it. He continued that carbon “will attach itself to the active ingredient and neutralize it. It requires an extremely large source of carbon and is not ideal.”

So, as springtime approaches and you anticipate weeds, have your pre-emergents ready to tackle the problem before it arises.

The Ins and Outs of Dormant Grass

Most people might think that brown grass equals dead grass, but this is not always true. The grass might just be dormant and quite the opposite of dead! Dormant grass is grass that is not actively growing. Although it might not be growing, the grass itself is still alive and ready for the next season. It is covered by a layer of dead grass; but underneath, it is actually healthy and full of life.

You can expect to find dormant grasses anywhere from around Thanksgiving (November) to the last frost, which in many cases, occurs in April; but don’t be alarmed by your browning lawn. When temperatures decrease, metabolism in the plant slows down, causing the grass to become dormant. Allen Woerner, owner of Woerner Farms, said “Ultimately what shuts the metabolism down in the plant is when it gets the frost.” This is why it is common to find that your grass turns brown following a winter frost.

Dormant grass is actually super easy to maintain, and much less of a workload. It is not recommended that you water the grass, because when it is dormant it is unable to absorb water and sunlight. Mr. Woerner explained, “I wouldn’t supplement water in the winter. When the plant is truly dormant in the winter it is neither taking on water nor sun, it is just existing.” Watering your dormant grass is not necessary, and neither is fertilizing! He continued, “I would not recommend fertilizing dormant grass in any way.” In fact, nitrogen based fertilizer cannot be used if your grass is not actively growing.

As for spraying for weeds, he added, “You would be making your yard more uniform while spraying for weeds in the winter.” He cautions, though, that you should not continue spraying for weeds when temperatures exceed 85 degrees. When the temperatures get too high, your lawn will experience stress from the heat, and your weeds will become resistant.

Do not continue spraying weeds when
temperatures exceed 85 degrees.

As the air begins to warm up, but remains relatively cool, this is the perfect time to install a lawn. As owner of Woerner farms, Mr. Woerner put it, “When you install a lawn in the summer months, it can be a lot more challenging to maintain water in the roots. Right now is an excellent time to be installing a lawn.” New sod can be laid, even if that sod is dormant; and the transition from winter to spring is the best time to lay it. In many cases, it is much less work to lay new sod when it is dormant. And you would not have to mow a dormant lawn like you would during the summer months.

Mr. Woerner concluded that you should “soil test in the winter months so you know what inputs to apply for your growing season.” Dormant grasses will have no effect on your soil test and no negative effect on your lawn. It is perfectly normal and a great opportunity to get a head start at preparing for the summer months.

Treating an Abundance or Deficiency of Phosphorus

If you are shopping for fertilizer, you will see three numbers on the bag, N-P-K, which stands for Nitrogen (N) – Phosphorus (P) – Potassium (K). What is the secret recipe for the right fertilizer combination for your lawn or garden this year? There is no way to know unless you take a soil sample and order a soil test.

But let’s chat specifically about one number on the bag that gets most of the attention and is heavily regulated….PHOSPHORUS. Your phosphorus purchase should not be made by guessing. Why? Because too little and you compromise your plant and too much and you burn your plant while harming the environment. What is this nutrient phosphorus and why does it have such polarizing outcomes?

Phosphorus (P) is responsible for the plant’s cell formation, genetic reproduction, root health, bloom, and it transforms solar energy into chemical energy. A proper amount is essential for optimal health. Once you have received your soil test report customized for your crop, you can take your results to any lawn and garden center and match the needs of your soil and crop to the corresponding attributes in fertilizer products. But what does it mean when your soil is too low or too high in phosphorus.

TOO LOW

If you are deficient in phosphorus, the health of your plant is compromised. Your plants require phosphorus to survive and depriving plants of this nutrient is harmful. If you have not diagnosed this from a soil test, there can also be visual signs to look for. You will see stunted growth and weak appearance. Even the leaves can turn dark green or purplish.

Phosphorus deficient plant leaves can turn dark green or purplish.

In addition, depending on where you live, you may have regulatory restrictions regarding when you can and cannot apply a phosphorus-based product. Please always consult your local extension office regarding the regulations. Most phosphorus regulations apply to warmer, high-heat temperatures, areas that are naturally high in phosphorus, or areas near sensitive watersheds. Your solution? Only apply the amount of phosphorus that your soil test recommends whether that’s an organic fertilizer like bone meal or manure, or a synthetic version. Either way, the guaranteed analysis on the bag will indicate the amount of phosphorus you will be applying.

TOO HIGH

If your soil is too high in phosphorus, the health of your plant is compromised, but the environment around you is also susceptible to residual affects. Unlike other plant nutrients, phosphorus is more stable and can build up in soil. Too much phosphorus and the plant begins to burn and it causes other deficiencies such as Iron(Fe) and Zinc(Zn) simply because they are trapped and unusable. T.L. Provin and J.L. Pitt said it best when they wrote an article for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension called Phosphorus – Too Much and the Plants May Suffer:

Phosphorus can become water-soluble and mobile, entering surface waters and causing algae and other undesirable plants to grow. This reduces water quality and desirable fish and aquatic plants.

How do high phosphorus conditions happen? Most of the time, it is from homeowners over-applying phosphorus based fertilizers and organic manures. The notion that organic fertilizers or the “higher the number on the bag,” the better is just not the case. I say this all the time, too much of a good thing, is a bad thing. Your solution to high phosphorus? Avoid the use of phosphorus based products altogether until your tests show a need for it. And for the other deficiencies it causes such as Iron (Fe) and Zinc (Zn), you will need to add those nutrients in a foliar form to by-pass the trapped conditions caused by phosphorus. Sadly, it is nearly impossible to find an organic product without phosphorus (a zero in the middle of the N-P-K analysis) due to the nature of its source.

Too much phosphorus can cause the plant to burn.

If you do find that you are too low or too high in phosphorus, I recommend that you do an annual soil test to make sure you are addressing the levels in a way that is healthy for the plant but also the best practice for environmental stewardship.

AgriTech Corp. Announces Addition of New SoilKit Staff

SoilKit team adds seven new team members across multiple departments as soil testing platform continues to grow

Foley, Alabama – February 4, 2021 – Agricultural data processing and technology software company AgriTech Corp. announced today that the team has grown for its flagship product SoilKit, an online soil testing platform. Seven new members have joined the SoilKit team as the product continues to expand into retailers nationwide. The new additions to the SoilKit team join a variety of departments, including Marketing and Sales, Information Technologies, Operations, and Vendor Relations.

“Last year was a year of growth for both the lawn & garden and agritech industries, and an exciting year for SoilKit. We’re thrilled to kick off 2021 with a talented group of new members to our ever-growing SoilKit family,” said AgriTech Corp. CEO and SoilKit founder, Christina Woerner McInnis.  “We have big things in store for this year, and are eager to hit the ground running with our new team members.”

Molly Davis joined AgriTech Corp. in 2020 as an Account Executive, and has since nurtured and developed key partnerships with many of SoilKit’s initial retail partners. Molly’s background includes instrumental experience in professional development, with a focus on staff-training, mentoring and coaching. She has led the charge with SoilKit’s partner and vendor relationships.

Mohammad Al-Abdullah has been named AgrichTech Corp.’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, joining the company in January 2021. Mohammad’s career in tech began as a developer of kiosk software, and has since expanded to include work on a variety of technologies for both small and large companies, building operating systems, green tech, telecommunications and more. Most recently he ran his own machine learning startup, focused on medical software. Prior to creating his own startups, Mohammad was a Software Engineer at Microsoft where he worked in the Windows operating systems group developing data storage technologies.

Johanna Rogers brings over 20 years of experience to her new role as Training Director for AgriTech Corp. She has found success using a variety of training methods, including virtual and face-to-face workshops, simulations and webinars in her past roles at both Q2ebanking and World Savings. Johanna’s past work history has included the creation and management of training functions for firms in financial services, technology, employee development, and customer service/support industries.

Clint Casey is a recent addition to the AgriTech Corp. team as a Project Manager, joining the Technology Infrastructure Team. Prior to AgriTech Corp., Casey worked for SunSouth John Deere, where he was focused on expanding the knowledge and adoption of precision agriculture, as well as Host Nations Perspective South West Asia, Support Systems Associates Inc., and Special Operations Technology. He is currently a member of two Alabama Agricultural Councils, The Alabama Agribusiness Council and the Alabama Agriculture Partnership Council.

Kyle Stewart also joins the AgriTech Corp. sales team as the Southeast Regional Sales Manager, covering Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. Stewart is a recent alumnus of Auburn University, where he received his degree in Agriculture Business and Economics. He acquired a research background while at Auburn, studying precision agriculture using variable rate technology on irrigation, and used soil sensor data to make irrigation decisions.

Stephanie Matthews serves as the Mid-South Regional Sales Manager for AgriTech Corp., covering Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas. Matthews is a recent graduate of Louisiana State University, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in geology. Prior to joining the AgriTech Corp. team, Stephanie served as an experienced licensed property and insurance agent, as well as an ad-sales team member for a television station in Baton Rouge.

Brady Gaither joins the AgriTech Corp. sales team as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Sales Manager covering Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and North Carolina. Gaither is an alumni of The University of West Alabama, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary studies aligning with a background in business and an emphasis in communications. Prior to joining AgriTech Corp., Brady spent several years in land management, wildlife development, and production sales in the Blackbelt region of Alabama.  

“Our company has been constantly growing since it began in 2018, and we’re thrilled to be expanding the team to keep up with demand,” said AgriTech Corp. COO, John Buckner. “We’ve assembled a group of talented individuals who we are excited to see grow with the company and the agritech industry in the future.”


About AgriTech Corp.

AgriTech Corp. is an agricultural data processing and technology software company based in Foley, Alabama. The company’s flagship lab-based soil testing platform, SoilKit, offers consumers and landscapers an easy-to-use mobile application for soil sample collection and registration using satellite technology and scanning tools. Lab results are usually available within 48 hours of receipt at the lab after being processed through the company’s proprietary algorithm and delivered digitally. The analysis generates specific soil amendment product and quantity recommendations to ameliorate soil deficiencies. The soil testing data and recommendations are stored and made available to partners for a variety of purposes beyond the immediate purpose of improving soil health. The result is a seamless collection and analysis process with simplified results, producing better lawn and garden outcomes and fewer environmental issues.

All About Organic Matter

I get a lot of questions about organic matter. What is it? Why do I need to monitor my organic matter levels? What is a good result and what is bad result? What do I do if my results are bad?

Let’s begin by defining organic matter. According to the USDA, “Soil organic matter (SOM) is the organic component of soil consisting of three primary components: small (fresh) plant residues with small living soil organisms, decomposing (active) organic matter, and stable organic matter (humus).” Note that the word “organic” here means substances and organisms found in nature — not the common retail definition referring to products created without the use of pesticides, antibiotics, or synthetic fertilizers. Examples of organic matter in this context are manure, crop residue, cover crops, and compost.

Why do you need to monitor organic matter? Because without sufficient organic matter, your soil’s health will suffer. Organic matter creates an ecosystem that facilitates plants’ absorption of nutrients like those in your fertilizer applications. It also helps improve both water retention and drainage, and its effect on soil structure helps to promote beneficial microbial activity. Together these effects on soil structure will help create a healthy and strong ecosystem capable of withstanding diseases and pests that can destroy your crop.

What are good and bad levels of organic matter? Organic Matter is reported as a percentage, and healthy soils will have between 2 and 6% organic matter. If you fall below the 2% mark, take steps to improve your SOM. One step you can take is to ensure you preserve what organic material you have by implementing soil erosion measures like adopting a no-till farming regimen. You can also amend your soil with organic matter such as composts, grass clippings, and mulch among many others.

Can SOM be too high? YES! If your organic matter is too high (greater than 6%), you might have too much phosphorus. For example, if you’ve been using manure to improve your organic matter for years, your annual soil test might show a very high level of phosphorus.

Phosphorus is the leading cause of pollution in our waterways and gets into the system when farmers and homeowners apply more of it than the soil and its plants can absorb. And while the right level of phosphorus is a key to plant health, too much can actually kill plants. A surprising number of our soil test customers show toxic levels of phosphorus coming from organic lawns and gardens. Always remember – too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing.

If you want to dive deeper into this topic, visit the USDA site for a good read.

BWI Companies Inc. begins distributing SoilKit in stores

Soil testing platform now available in-store to BWI customers across Texas and the Gulf Coast

Foley, Alabama – January 19, 2021 – Agricultural data processing and technology software company AgriTech Corp. announced today that lawn and garden distributor BWI Companies would begin distributing AgriTech Corp.’s  flagship product SoilKit, an online soil testing platform, to the brick-and-mortar storefronts that BWI serves across the country.

AgriTech Corp.’s partnership with BWI continues SoilKit’s expansion into stores across the US after its spring 2020 launch. BWI, which distributes lawn, garden, and other landscaping products to garden centers, nurseries and hardware stores, currently has 14 distribution centers across Texas, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. SoilKit is the first and only lab-based soil testing platform available through BWI’s online store.

“Partnering with AgriTech to market and distribute SoilKit throughout our territory has been a great decision for us,” said BWI category development manager Will Welch. “The user-friendly testing process benefits our markets, from turf professionals and landscape pros, to our retail customer’s customer: Do-it-yourself homeowners. Their top-notch testing service brings value and benefits to all users.”

Soil testing has long been an integral part of commercial landscaping and agriculture operations, but the process is often looked at as too time-consuming and technical for day-to-day consumers. SoilKit’s unique platform overcomes these barriers by providing the same high-quality testing service used by professionals through a prepaid envelope, followed by an easy-to-digest results page and personalized soil amendment recommendations. With these key differences from traditional soil tests, SoilKit founder Christina Woerner McInnis created a more accessible test with just as much power as a county extension office.

“We appreciate BWI’s support and partnership,” said Woerner McInnis. “Having their distribution muscle on our side will be a boost to SoilKit’s mission of making soil testing accessible to homeowners and individuals across the country.”


About AgriTech Corp.

AgriTech Corp. is an agricultural data processing and technology software company based in Foley, Alabama. The company’s flagship lab-based soil testing platform, SoilKit, offers consumers and landscapers an easy-to-use mobile application for soil sample collection and registration using satellite technology and scanning tools. Lab results are usually available within 48 hours of receipt at the lab after being processed through the company’s proprietary algorithm and delivered digitally. The analysis generates specific soil amendment product and quantity recommendations to ameliorate soil deficiencies. The soil testing data and recommendations are stored and made available to partners for a variety of purposes beyond the immediate purpose of improving soil health. The result is a seamless collection and analysis process with simplified results, producing better lawn and garden outcomes and fewer environmental issues.

Victory Gardening

We have seen a huge surge in gardening during the pandemic. They called it “Victory Gardening.” The expression was originally coined during World Wars I and II, when Americans had to ration food. Therefore, to preserve the food and tin supply for troops and to boost morale, the US government encouraged the population to grow its own food. It is estimated that more than 20 million Americans grew their own fruits and vegetables during that time, representing about 40 percent of the country’s supply of fresh produce! Gardening surged due to necessity, and the Victory Garden was born!

1988
33 years ago picking strawberries with my Dad and family.
2014
7 years ago my children helping me in our garden.

Jump to 2020. The pandemic, with its shelter-in-place orders, social distancing, and massive layoffs, drove millions back home, and an estimated 16 million new gardeners were born. Being home created the initial opportunity, but the stress relief of gardening created the motivation. As we kick off 2021, Garden Magazine estimates that 85% of those gardeners plan to replant. What does that mean? We are going to have a lot of hobby gardening or what I like to say, micro-farming. These gardeners are still fairly new and looking for a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from gardening.

Chelsea Davis from Forbes interviewed Christopher “Landy” Landercasper, the Director of Farming Operations for Sonoma’s Best Hospitality Group, and he said one thing you need to know about starting your garden is,

“Soil health is generally increased by having the building blocks of life in the proper ratios for the plant you are trying to grow. The big three nutrients for plant health are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K). Getting the balance of these three correct will be the best thing you can do to help your plant be healthy.”

I am actually planning my spring garden right now, and I want to make sure it’s going to be a success. In years past, my family always involved me in the garden and today, I like to involve my children so they can follow along and reap what they sow. One fun point they have learned from our gardening efforts is they like to plant what they prefer to eat. I asked my four children what they want to plant and this is their breakdown. Neal wants a blueberry bush; Charlee wants cherry tomatoes; Georgia wants strawberries; and Lillie wants avocados. In the past, I have grown all of the above but avocado. To be honest, I don’t know where I can even find an avocado tree, but I am going to put forth a good effort for her.

To avoid a bad investment, here is my breakdown of how we will begin with a healthy start:

  • The blueberry bush needs soil with a pH of 4.5. I am going to look for a 1-3 year old plant.
  • The strawberries will be my favorite to plant. I did strawberries as a child and I love to eat strawberry shortcake in the summer. The strawberries will go in the ground now, even though it’s January. The soil pH needs to be 6.5.
  • The tomatoes will also need to be planted by end of February and will require soil with pH of 6.5 and a nice crawler stand to grow.
  • The avocado is going to be a lot more sensitive and I will need to keep a close eye on this one. The soil pH will need to be around 5-5.5, and I will have to watch the other nutrients closely.

I am also a believer in the right genetics so I will be selecting these plants carefully. I will start all of them with healthy soils and I will use my soil test to make amendments and keep the plants at optimal health. Along the way, I am also going to plant some other fun items for myself, and I will talk more about those later. Hint – I have always wanted a vanilla bean farm. Stay tuned…