By Bradford Sherman
Rafiq Islam, a soil scientist at The Ohio State University, has received his university’s Commercialization Achievement Award in recognition of a 2021 licensing agreement for the rapid and low-cost soil health test he spent over a decade developing and perfecting.
Islam, who leads the Soil, Water, and Bioenergy Resources program in Piketon, began development of the soil test over 15 years ago with the goal of creating something that was affordable, and so convenient and simple to use that any landowner could use it to make informed decisions concerning soil health and the potential for agricultural productivity.
“Farmers would come to me and say, ‘Rafiq, can you make something that we can use in the field and 10-to-15 minutes later, we can know the quality of the soil?’” Islam recalled, when asked about his inspiration for developing the test kit. Fast forward to today and now an estimated thousands of kits have been sold and utilized by farmers, scientists, and scholars all around the world.
“Discovery is at the core of our academic mission at Ohio State and we have a deep appreciation for the meaningful work you do to drive innovation and better society,” Kevin Taylor, Senior Associate Vice President of Technology Commercialization within OSU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development, penned in a letter congratulating Islam. “Ohio State’s research solves real-world problems – improving people’s lives across the globe and creating new opportunities for the citizens of our state.”
The licensing agreement reached with Soil1, the company that now sells the kits, has helped lead to domestic and international success and utilization. The kits are available to purchase starting at $45 for the basic kit, and $95 for the professional version at soil1.com.
The signature feature of this soil test kit is convenience. Unlike many other methods, it can be used in the field and data can be had in as little as 15 minutes. The results are also color-coded for ease of interpreting the results.
“It is non-toxic as well, it only uses one chemical,” explained Islam. “It is reliable and convenient to use in the field; and very fast, in 15 minutes you are done.”
This one-step basic field test kit contains enough reagent and testing supplies for approximately 15 field soil tests. The kit consists of a heavy-duty case containing 30 ml of reagent, water resistant instruction sheet and color chart, glass-mixing bottle, 5-gram measuring scoop, four black plastic soil trays, a stainless steel spatula, and 2 ml backup dropper.
A professional version of the kit is also available and is designed to be more heavy duty with an upgraded case and upgraded pipettor system for quicker and more precise reagent dispensing. It also contains enough reagent and testing supplies for approximately 45 tests.
Islam was presented with a plaque in recognition of this award. “We are honored you entrust your innovations with us and look forward to future collaboration,” added Taylor.