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I was fortunate to be part of the setup process for the Woodlands Dairy soils lab and had the opportunity to give my input in the design and development of the lab.  I found it to be a challenging process, especially with regards to setting it up to have the capacity to carry out soil physical and chemical analyses.

When I look back over the past few months during which the lab has been running, it has been a rewarding process.

Preparing to analyse the soil for available nitrogen (nitrate and ammonium)

The analyses that we carry out include: water holding capacity, bulk density, available nitrogen (in the form of nitrate and ammonium), pH, active carbon and fungi. These analyses are used as soil sustainability indicators, as part of the SWAN system.

It is actually fun and interesting to work in the lab and analyse the results, especially when we can start interpreting what the results mean and relate it to real world issues.  An example would be to investigate why there are high levels of nitrogen in a pasture and what influence this has on productivity, or whether there are other factors than nitrogen playing a role.

Some of the tubes that were used to analyse soil for available nitrogen

Marno Fourie

Marno is a Trace and Save researcher that works on the Woodlands Dairy Sustainability Project and has been part of the team since January 2013. He studied Conservation Ecology at Stellenbosch University. He is passionate about using natural resources in a way that leaves it in a better state for the next generation.

Marno loves the outdoors and to explore new places on his 250cc motorbike, which by the way, is a more eco-friendly mode of transport that generates less carbon emissions than his bantam bakkie. He enjoys good food and company. He also likes to look at natural vegetation in the rough when attempting to play a round of golf.

You can email Marno at or connect with him on social media:
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Marno Fourie