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Environmental Concepts 1662 Professional Soil Test Kit with 40 Tests
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- Contains components for 40 tests. 10 each for Soil pH, N, P and K
- Comes with sturdy plastic case
- Simple and detailed instructions included
- pH preference list for hundreds of plants included
- Tips for gardening and altering soil conditions included
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The #1662 Soil Test Kit from Environmental Concepts is a liquid based testing kit which is great for hobbyists, classrooms and professionals. In contains all components needed for a total of 40 tests. 10 each for soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potash. Detailed instructions are included along with extensive guidelines for altering soil and using the best plants for your soil environment. From Environmental Concepts, makers of high quality soil testing products for over 40 years.
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I am guessing that the reviewers either didn't let their samples completely dry, which will effect the results since you would actually be measuring the contents of the groundwater AND the soil, not the soil. Or they didn't pulverize the soil sample into dust, which it definitely should say on the instructions. You can't reliably extract the nutrients from chunks of dirt. I dried mine in the sun for a few hours then smashed them with a plain old spoon before putting them in the test tube. I can't give the kit 4 stars because of this. Also if you are submitting samples to get tested in a lab you have to virtually duplicate the sample. Same hole, same depth, or your results won't exactly match. also as the kit suggests you need to take multiple samples and average the results. I took 8 samples, 1 from each of my beds. These results were fairly consistent as I hadn't fertilized them in a while so the nutrients were back to the base levels found in my soils. I compared the pH and nutrients to levels reported by the local agriculture extension service for my area and soil type and they were consistent.
Finally, they claim you can do 80 tests with the kit. Yeah right, that would maybe be the total for all tests in the kit. You'll get more like 15 tests for each nutrient if you don't mess any up. So that's a definitely misleading, unless you know what they mean by 80 tests beforehand (which you can't until you get the actual kit). And for those who complain about getting moire of the solutions, it is plainly stated in the kit that more can be obtained by emailing them. So unless you did and they wouldn't supply them, you are wrong. Overall I don't think you can find a better and more thorough kit for them money. If you're really serious about matching what your results are with what the lab does, find a kit at one of the ag. supply website sand pay a LOT.
Tell the truth and give abundantly clear instructions and I will up my rating. Until then buyers need to read this before purchasing. IMHO :)
I've started down the path of trying to grow a giant pumpkin. Since most growers indicate that soil conditions are very important, I bought this kit since it would also allow me to test other areas of the yard. I've never tested any of my soils, so it seemed like a good idea. I should add that I have a fairly strong science background and was a middle school teacher for 5 yrs. However, that doesn't make me a chemist *grin* so I'm not saying I'm and 'expert' in this area.
The pictures shows the contents fairly well, but it should be added that the kit includes a very large amount filter discs - more than you could ever use -, as well as two replacement o-rings for the plunger. After doing several tests, the original o-ring was leaking liquid so the extras are a nice inclusion. The amount of reagents looks quite varied in how many tests you can complete. Most seem like you can do 20 or more, but the phosphorus reagent is getting low after perhaps a dozen tests. (My experiments with it may be the reason I am running out early - discussed below)
Contrary to other reviews, the instructions are clear but do require a careful read through. Their organization could be better however since I have made a few mistakes when testing. The mistakes were my own fault (not paying attention) however, and if you follow them closely you shouldn't have a problem.
The process for the tests require a dry crumbled soil. Get a soil sample 2-3 inches below the surface, and let it dry completely. Then I sifted it through a fine strainer to remove large particles and organic matter and then crushed the soil until it was a fine powder. Since there was still some fine gravel remaining after the crushing, I brushed them aside to get the finest soil particles.
For testing, you add soil to the plunger device, add an extracting reagent, strain the liquid and then add a reaction agent. The exception is the pH test, and I found reading the result difficult without the straining. So I now conduct the test as instructed in the plunger tube, and then strain for the reading.
Problems with the readings:
The pH and Nitrogen tests are fairly easy to read. The phosphorus test however, seems difficult to interpret. The directions state to read the result immediately after adding the reagent. However, the color continues to change after a period of time and if I read it immediately it shows a zero result. Typically, a color changing reaction should be allowed to reach its final hue and I think leaving the test solution to sit until the color change is complete is the proper method for reading the phosphorus test. I can't say definitively that this is correct however. For the potassium test, the reagent creates a precipitate (cloudy particles) and reading the test seems almost impossible. The technique is to place the tube over a row of boxes with dots and moving from a high density of dots to the lower densities and stopping when you can just see a box through the tube. However, since the dots all have the same opacity, either you see them all, or you see none.
I have not had my soil professionally tested, so I can't determine just how accurate the tests are. However, I have attempted to semi-calibrate the phosphorus and potassium tests to help me interpret the the soil results.
pH - Once strained, the liquid color is easy to compare to the color chart - values range from 7.5 to 4.5 in .5 increments.. Straining is important however since suspended silts in the solution make interpreting the results very difficult. The instructions say wait for it to settle, but fine silt particles could take days (or longer!) to settle out.
Nitrogen- The results color is easy to compare to the color chart. It should be noted that with further reading, a nitrogen test is always considered inaccurate since nitrogen levels can fluctuate in soils quickly. So consider the test to be an 'at this moment'. I still found it helpful. The color chart moves from 'surplus' to 'depleted' and so is basically a 'high - medium - low' test.
*** For the phosphorus and potassium tests, I did a test sample by adding monopotassium phosphate to a soil sample. MPK is highly soluble and I basically over fertilized the test samples to just see what a 'very high' sample would look like.
Phosphorus - This test is difficult to interpret as instructed. When the reagent is added, the instructions say to take the reading immediately. If you do so, the test will always read a zero result since the chemical reaction has not had time to take place. My MPK test should have been a deep purple (surplus) and it took a couple of minutes to match the color on the chart. My actual soil sample test finally reached a sufficient/adequate level after waiting a similar amount of time. The exact amount of time that produces an 'accurate' reading is unknown, but 'immediate' doesn't seem like a viable reading. The MPK test did start to change color very quickly but reading it immediately would have shown it to be near depleted.
Potassium - This test is the least likely to produce any useful information. As mentioned above, it is basically an opacity test and using the chart, seeing 1 dot or 10 dots will be the same since they are the same size and pigment density. (The are all very black.) The MPK test created a very cloudy solution and obscured all of the boxes showing that there was a lot of precipitate in the solution, as would be expected.
My own soil test produced very little to no precipitate showing it had no phosphorus (since I can see all the test result boxes). I find it hard to believe the soil has NO potassium in it. Basically this test should be considered a lot of potassium/very little potassium test. I might try to create my own test boxes with a grey scale (black to white) to see if I can make it more discriminating.
I did a search online to look for a video review of this kit (none) as well as some reviews of it's results. Most information of meager value discusses the more simple versions of this kit and I don't feel they are comparable since this kit uses different testing methods. I did find a review however that compares a variety of test kits and compares them to a laboratory soil analysis. The article goes into detail on assessing accuracy, variation in results, and test results v.s. lab analysis. It does not however, indicate which RapidTest was used. Based on the level of detail the investigator put into the tests however, I think there is a chance he used this test kit. Saying that, he showed a very high accuracy for the test kit, and knowing the problems with the potassium test, this kit might not have been used. You can find the article here:
Just in case Amazon reviews don't allow for links, you can find the article by Googling the entire article title:
Accuracy Varies for Commercially Available Soil Test Kits Analyzing Nitrate–Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, and pH
If you find the article confusing (likely), looking at table 3 and 4 is easiest and most informative.
I think this kit is a 'fair' value (hence my three stars) since you can get a pH and Nitrogen test fairly accurately. The phosphorus test is more accurate if you deviate from the instructions and let the sample sit for a few minutes until the color change is complete. (My opinion of course.) I would like to do some more tests attempting to determine if the test reads a low value after sitting and might do so and return here with an update. The phosphorus test however is the lowest supply I have left in the kit, but this is partly due to me making some mistakes, as well as testing it a few times to sleuth out how it is best read. The potassium test should be considered completely useless unless a new density/opacity chart is created. It's design is baffling since I immediately questioned how you could have any result other than 'tons or none' before I even started the test.
The kit components are more than adequate in quality for the intended use. However, I found it helpful to use a pipette to transfer liquids from the plunger to the reagent test tubes. Including a pipette in the kit would add a lot to the ease of use. I recommend getting some pipettes if you plan on doing many tests with the kits. (Cheap disposable pipettes are easy to order, and you might find uses for them elsewhere. *smile*)
Ultimately though, I am disappointed with the kit. As a sciency-guy I was looking forward to using a sub-professional kit. (Attaching 'professional' to the kit title is disingenuous to say the least.) I'm tempted to give it a 2 star rating, but moved it to a 3 since the volume of the kit allows for several tests for pH and nitrogen and has a semi-useful phosphorus test. I feel pretty good about my modifications for reading the test and so I am including it in my assessment. I wouldn't consider this test to be accurate to a fine degree, but it gives you a general sense of how your soil is doing and so does offer some useful information.