By Bradford Sherman
For Dr. Khandakar (Rafiq) Islam, it was a experiment 15 years in the making, and the result was 15 minutes in the taking.
Fifteen years ago, Islam began developing a soil test kit 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 — all within just 15 minutes.
“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 1,000 kits have been sold, and been utilized by farmers, scientists, and scholars all around the world.
The Ohio State University South Centers scientist, who leads the Soil, Water, and Bioenergy Resources program in Piketon, was awarded a patent for the technology earlier this year. For achieving this key commercialization milestone, Islam is among the faculty members recently recognized for their innovations by The Ohio State University.
“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, Associate Vice President of Technology Commercialization within the university’s Corporate Engagement Office, penned in a letter to Islam and his fellow innovation award recipients. “You discover life-changing technologies … and pursue knowledge to solve real-world problems and create new opportunities for our communities.”
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.”
In addition to its domestic success and utilization, the test kit has also been used abroad as part of Islam’s extensive studies in Africa, Asia and Europe. Much of his attention has been focused in the eastern European country of Ukraine, where he has distributed many of these test kits to local farmers. Islam says access to technology like that included in his test kit is extremely important for the nation of Ukraine and its people.
“They do not have the facilities, so they cannot perform routine soil tests like we do in the United States,” Islam said. “They care about land, but do not know how to manage it. They do not regularly have access to diagnostic information.”
Ukraine is an important country as it pertains to helping achieve global food security in the face of the growing world population. While the nation exported 280 million tons of food last year, according to Islam, they have the capacity to export more than 500 million tons.
“Ukraine had some of the best soil in the world, but now most of their soil has degraded because of the Soviet style,” he added. “They are interested in improving their soil quality so they can revitalize the soil, and produce more food and export.”
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.
The soil test kit is now available to purchase starting at $45 for the basic kit, and $95 for the professional version. You can visit soil1.com to find out more, or purchase a kit.