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The Dirt on Soil and Soil Analytics

October, 2022

T Eden, HCT, LLC, Principal

INTRODUCTION: They call it soil, dirt, sand; it may be loamy, calcareous, or laden with clay. Dr. Woolworth at the University of Arizona advises us to view soil as a filter.

Consider the heating and cooling air filter in your home. It's a dry environment, and they are changed frequently due to their collection of particulate matter. Consider a pool filter; while you chlorinate regularly, adjust water chemistry for phosphate, pH and alkalinity, the filter, in water, is backwashed frequently to remove the matter caught, inclusive of particulate as well as bio-matter.

Let’s think about dirt, the variety of pond or reclaim water we put on - about 3/8ths of an inch per night (1,000,000 gallons on 100 acres for golf) of which the water might be 1,000 ppm TDS, 500 lbs. per acre, over 6 months, accumulating to 90,000 lbs. of matter, that our vegetation and soil are supposed to process – all in an effort to keep the soil healthy.

90,000 lbs. is equivalent to 18 ea. ½ ton pickup trucks. Over a years time, how much of this 90,000 lbs. has accumulated in the soil? Where has it accumulated? How is it impacting the soil's ability to accommodate the roots of my vegetation? If this same water were used in our pool and we shut off the pump, would the water go septic? Think about how rancid the water is that we are putting on / into our soils! Would you swim in the pond water at your local golf course or farm?

1. Tracking the soils infiltration rates will give you some insight.

2. Relying on the reported “soil exchangeables” does not tell you what has accumulated.

3. Performing a Total soil digestion, by tiers, will show you the elements accumulated

4. What will show you the bacteria, black layer, iron reducing bacteria and biofilms?

If only you could backwash the soil like a pool filter, or sell the dirt like a nursery. You likely core aerify and remove 10-20% of the soil, removing the cores and top dressing with sand, while disrupting revenues and spending quite a bit of money. Do you increase the calcium nitrate and iron when it appears to be deficient without any regard to what may already be accumulated in the soil? Are you observing “exchangeables” of the soil analyses as what’s in the soil and would you be shocked to find that the amount in the soil is likely 2 to 20 times more than what the “exchangeable” amounts implied? What if 3,000 ppm calcium exchangeable, was 30,000 ppm total – or 60 ppm exchangeable iron was 36,000, or how about 116,000 ppm? These are “actual” scenarios. It’s no wonder we have infiltration issues, as well as a lack of available nutrition and oxygen, bio / fungal issues and likely septic water in our soils. My hypothesis is that rain's biggest value besides water, is the dissolved oxygen it pounds into compromised calcareous or bio laden anoxic soils - not so much flushing salts, other than sodium, if there is adequate infiltration.

When the accumulations become problematic, what do we observe?

1. Puddling

2. Water retention

3. Disease

4. Black layer

5. Yellowing

6. Loss of turf uniformity due to loss of soil uniformity

7. More expense, time, resources

8. Unhappy owners, management and clients

9. Interruption of revenues and increase in expenses

See for Yourself: You’ve been looking at soils analysis. One test method implies what available nutrition is being released when you water. This is called a saturated paste extract, and it is presented to you as “Available” Nutrition”. What if you were scientifically shown that test can be dramatically improved and that the existing method has the propensity to exacerbate your agronomy issues versus help them?

To be specific, the method uses lab water, versus your actual treated water – it uses a 1:1 water to soil ratio, where other places throughout the world use 1:3 or 1:4 ratio due to saturation limitations, and they use a 12 to 24 hours chemical retention time, where it can take up to 72 hours to dissolve most less soluble nutrients (Ca, Fe, P & K).

Changes to the method, referred to as the Legacy Method, reveals astonishing differences in the nutritional availability and necessities, toxins as well. A total game changer for the industry.

Part of the Available Nutrition Analyses data you have been looking at, also includes lines referred to as “Exchangeables” or Exch. This is a separate test method used to digest the soil with a weak acid(s), that expresses what nutrients in the soil might be liberated by like acids produced by the roots. In the western USA, they use the ammonium acetate and DTPA solutions. In the eastern USA they use the Mehlich III Method. Kudos to Dr. Mehlich who subscribed to continuous improvement in his third rendition, of which is comprised of more aggressive solutions, thereby revealing more nutrient saturations.

For example; when the available nutrition analysis showed we were deficient for Ca, P, K and Fe, and the exchangeable showed the soils had plenty of each and every one of these, the nutritional additive recommendations said to add these deficient nutrients because your plant needs them, even though your soils are compromised with excesses.

While the term “Available Nutrition” is used in reference to the benefit of our vegetation, because of this method, it is counterproductive with respect to the actual soil conditions such as bulk density, pore space, infiltration, and associated degradation of soil health by septic water, also confining layers holding toxins (sodium and chloride salts), perpetuation of bacteria and their exudates.

Where the Available said to add, the exchangeables said we have some, but not enough is being released, the TOTAL Digestion showed there are significantly more volumes of the less soluble beneficial cations and metals that are in such mass, that adding more is further complicating bulk density, pore space and infiltration. So, a catch 22? My plant needs it, my soils have it, and the more I give to my plant, the more accumulates detrimentally in the soil? With conventional agronomy - yes, that is accurate. But not with WaterSOLV™ solutions.

The Solution: Qualified solutions to qualified and quantified problems; better test methods and more accurate/representative data leads to reproducible, predictable outcomes, and better soil sampling techniques.

Note: As salts are dissolved from crystalline and complexed forms, to soluble - EC and TDS increase, irrespective of pH. The objective is to see infiltration rates optimized along with available moisture, nutrition, and oxygen.

Water & Soil Commonalities Across the Planet

Tests – Requirements

Proof? Just do a comparison.

  1. Compare the Legacy Method Saturated Paste Extract aka Available Nutrition to the conventional method – Standard Saturated Paste Extract

  2. Compare Legacy Total Soil Digestion to the conventional Exchangeable Method (AA/DTPA used in the western USA or Mehlich III used in the eastern USA. Mehlich III are stronger acids.)


You must manage the soil nutrients. As you liberate them and allow the plants to absorb them you have to test and replenish. Plants need an ongoing supply of nutrients in their drink. The Legacy Methods for Available Nutrition and for Total Digestion are used to monitor, trend and manage vegetation needs.

What about pH?

With adequate chemistry applied, the pH values will stabilize to near native water and soil chemistry, and must be below 8.0 pH units.

Read More:

HCT Blog Articles:

More Proof?

The Saturated Paste Extract (available nutrition reported);

The Total Soil Digestion showed;

Based on the available nutrition report, over report, one would add more to the soil, and continue to accumulate and compromise the soil porosity – its ability to function and breath. This is a chronic occurrence in agronomy. We have examples upon examples.

Soil Testing

INTRODUCTION: USGA sand-based greens – 24 to 36 inch depth, to gravel pack, sand specifically designed. Push up greens – usually native soil with top dressing. Fairways, composition, depth, what’s beneath, clay, loam, sand, rock, muck, super saturated with nutrition, perhaps loaded with black layer, accumulated sodium and chloride? Could be the soils were always deficient of available nutrition, or the soils overloaded with nutrients as we try to keep the vegetation looking good. “They took the sludge from the pond, mixed it with dirt, and set that as the top layer to put new sod on”.

What is their water quality, is it consistent or perhaps blended? Do environmental conditions play a role; canal water variances, temperature, algae and bacteria – shells – precipitation and or the lack of and where rain is a significant contributor of flushing sodium and adding dissolved oxygen, and the lack of rain exhibit the deficiencies.

Black layer is actually a bacteria issue that leads to an oxygen deficiency.

Infiltration rates, confining layers and water bacteria are all new items we need to keep our eye on, track and trend, and yet they might be the second most important criteria to monitor, after moisture, moisture depth and nutrition.

I take a soil sample from a field, fairway, green or tee box, is it representative of what, good spot, bad spot, the overall good? Is it the crust, the confining layer, the hydrated moisture zone or dry soil beneath the moist soil, but still within the root zone? You can probe a soil and find within 12 inches from each, roots at 12 inches and 12 inches away, unable to even get the probe in the ground. On the same field you can find water soil bogs that operate like quicksand, and the smell.

What if you could fix each of those problems, definitively? Allow me to say, you have all likely experienced these conditions because it is chronic in the industry.

What are the Objectives for Optimum Growth?

Can you definitively check off each one of these are in perspective, beneficially and sustainably to agronomy? Economically as well? These are our core deliverables.

  1. Pore Space, Infiltration Rate, Moisture Penetration & Retention

  2. Available Nutrition

  3. H2O, Oxygen (water can turn septic)

  4. Sodium & Chloride Detoxification

  5. Remediation of Iron Bacteria bio-films

  6. Remediation of Black Layer exudates including toxic

  7. Pest and disease protection

Soil Sampling:

1. It begins with observations and notes;

a) Crop

b) Location (City/State – Environmental)

c) Soil Sample Name

i) Description

ii) Location

iii) Condition

iv) Tier (from to inches)

v) Expected Crop Root Zone length

vi) Moisture %

vii) Moisture Depth

viii) Infiltration Rate

ix) Soil Texture

x) Black Layer

xi) Odor

xii) Confining layer & depth

xiii) Holding water – bogy

xiv) Cementous

2. Able to bury a probe without a mallet

a) Tissue burn

3. Chemistry used for

a) pH reduction

b) Calcium Supplement

c) Sodium Detoxification

d) Restoring pore space

4. Conditions

a) Row Crop

b) Drip

c) Irrigation

d) Portable Sprinklers

e) Pivot

f) Underground Emitter

5. Source Water Identification / Name

6. Expectations of Returned Data

Sampling Basis:

HCT Supporting Documents:

  1. Soil Sampling Recommendations

  2. Analytical Analysis Order Form: soil and water amounts, testing costs, supporting laboratories.

  3. WaterSOLV™ Quick Calc – Excel Document for calculating water needs, adding soil remediation and timing, calculating treatment costs (by packaging)

  4. WaterSOLV™ Mobile Application - for calculating water needs, adding soil remediation and timing, calculating treatment costs (by packaging)

  5. Offsets Calculator: HCT Deliverables that offset HCT costs.

Contact HCT directly for a list of qualified distributors, dealers, representatives, engineers, PCA's and CCA's.

HCT, LLC | (888) 788-5807 Making Water a Better Solution™ | Sustainable Chemistry & Biology to Water™ Well-Klean©, WaterSOLV™, Water Treatment for Agronomy™, Water pHix™ & WaterSOLV™ Grow are trade names of HCT, LLC



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