A Proficiency Testing Program for the Agricultural Laboratory Analysis Industry

in HortScience
Authors:
Robert O. Miller1Dept. of Soil and Crop Sciences, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO 80523-1173

Search for other papers by Robert O. Miller in
ASHS
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
,
Steven E. Newman2Dept. of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO 80523-1173

Search for other papers by Steven E. Newman in
ASHS
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
, and
Janice Kotuby-Amacher3Dept. of Plant, Soils, and Biometeorology, Utah State Univ., Logan, UT 84322-4820

Search for other papers by Janice Kotuby-Amacher in
ASHS
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close

The accuracy of soil and plant analytical results are occasionally called into question by laboratory clientele. Although laboratories generally conduct internal quality assurance procedures, there are few external performance testing programs for the industry. In 1994, a proficiency testing program was initiated for soil and plant samples for agricultural laboratories in the western United States to provide an external quality control for the lab industry. The program involves the quarterly exchange of soil and plant samples on which soil salinity, soil fertility, and plant nutrition analyses are conducted. One hundred laboratories are annually enrolled in the program from 24 states and Canadian provinces. Results of 3 years of the program indicate soil nitrate, soil pH, extractable potassium, soil and organic matter are reproducible within 10% between laboratories. Soil-extractable phosphorus (by five methods), soil-extractable boron, and soluble chloride were only reproducible within 15% to 20% between laboratories. Plant nitrogen and phosphorus results were consistent across samples, laboratories, and methods. Variability in plant nitrate increased with decreasing tissue concentrations. Overall accuracy and precision of reported results, based on the use of NIST certified reference botanical samples, were excellent for N, P, K, Ca, and Cu. Generally, for any given analysis, the results of ≈10% of the laboratories exceed two standard deviations from the mean. Overall, significant improvement was noted in the laboratory industry proficiency through the course of the program.

  • Collapse
  • Expand