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About Us

Program History

The University of Delaware Soil Testing Laboratory was established in 1947 to provide a rapid, accurate soil analysis service to Delaware farmers. Prior to that time, soil testing was performed by individual agronomists to obtain research data or to assist in the diagnosis of problems in the field for growers. The opening of the laboratory coincided with a serious effort by agronomists both locally and across the nation to promote the proper use of lime and fertilizer to maintain and improve the fertility of soils and to maximize crop yields.

The Soil Testing Laboratory has changed dramatically since those early years. Initially, the laboratory relied on graduate students for labor and faculty laboratories for facilities. Today, the laboratory has evolved into a full scale, self contained program that employs four full-time staff and one half-time secretary as well as additional seasonal help as needed. The modern UD Soil Testing Program occupies two laboratories in Worrilow Hall on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resource campus in Newark and is equipped with modern, state of the art equipment and analytical instrumentation. The program and its staff participate in numerous regional and national organizations associated with soil testing, soil science and agriculture including the USDA Northeast Coordinating Committee for Soil Testing (NEC-1007), the Mid-Atlantic Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Work Group, the North American Proficiency Testing Program, the Soil and Plant Analysis Council, the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America. Such participation is critical to remaining at the leading edge of soil testing services.

The facilities and staffing of the UD Soil Testing Program (UDSTP) are not the only aspects of the laboratory that have changed. The types of clients served by the UDSTP and the services offered have also expanded widely since those early years. Today, the laboratory provides soil testing services and nutrient recommendations not only to farmers in Delaware and nearby states, but also homeowners, landscapers and lawn care companies, state and federal agencies, industrial clients, university and extension faculty, staff and students, archeologists and other geo- and technical consultants. In addition to soil analyses, the program offers analysis of extracts, plants, manures, wastes, food products and a variety of other materials.

Ongoing Activities

  • Provide soil testing and nutrient recommendations to farmers, homeowners, landscape professionals, golf course operators, and other involved in land use management.
  • Support the research and teaching missions of the University of Delaware and other educational institutions by providing analytical services to UD faculty, staff and students and those in similar positions at other colleges and universities.

  • Provide troubleshooting services to assist Extension staff and industry agronomists in diagnosing problems in the field for growers and nurserymen.

  • Provide analytical services and unbiased interpretations to citizens of Delaware and nearby states.

  • Provide educational materials and programs about soils, soil testing and nutrient management to the general public.

  • Provide training and assistance in the area of soils and soil management to programs and organizations such as the Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners and local garden clubs.

  • Offer tours, training and support to school students and teachers from Delaware and surrounding states.

  • Provide assistance to new and developing programs in the agricultural analysis industry.

  • Participate directly in research related to soil testing, plant analysis, and nutrient management.

  • Support and promote continuing improvement in the soil testing industry through participation in regional and national work groups.

  • Assist with college and Extension activities such as Ag Day, the UDBG Plant Sales and workshops.

  • Provide displays at garden fairs and other outreach activities.

  • Provide exposure for the College and the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences through award-winning displays and personal interaction at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Summary of Major Client Groups the UD Soil Testing Program Serves

  • Farmers, homeowners and landscape professionals in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
  • Nutrient management consultants, garden centers and agribusiness firms (e.g., fertilizer and lime dealers) in those same states.

  • Commercial nursery production and commercial hydroponics facilities.

  • Corporate clients such as DuPont and Pioneer Hi-Bred.

  • Constructions companies and geo-technical consulting firms.

  • Archeological consulting firms such as Heite Consulting, Inc., and Soils International Inc.

  • Faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Delaware including those in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Center for Composite Materials and Museum Studies and Art Conservation.

  • Research and Cooperative Extension staff at Delaware State University, University of Maryland, Rutgers University and the University of Pennsylvania at New Bolton Center.

  • State agencies including DDA, DNREC, the Kent and Sussex Conservation Districts, the Delaware State Facilities Management office, Delaware Department of Transportation and the Maryland State Highway Administration.

  • Federal agencies including USDA-Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and the NASA Goddard Space Center.

Laboratory and Staff Affiliations

University of Delaware

  • College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  • Department of Plant and Soil Sciences

Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Work Groups

  • USDA NE Regional Coordinating Committee on Soil Testing (NEC-1012)
  • Mid-Atlantic Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Workgroup

Professional and Industrial Societies

  • Soil Science Society of America
  • American Society of Agronomy
  • North American Proficiency Testing Program Oversight Committee (NAPT)
  • Northeastern Branch - ASA-CSSA-SSSA

Proficiency Testing Programs

  • North American Proficiency Testing Program - Soil, Plant, Water & Environmental Soil

Program Staff

Karen Gartley - Program Director

143 Townsend Hall / 302-831-1392 /

Laboratory Staff

Cathy Olsen - Laboratory Supervisor

110 Worrilow Hall / 302-831-8407 /


Kate Murray - Research Associate

110 Worrilow Hall / 302-831-8407 /



Chander Lekha - Laboratory Technician

110 Worrilow Hall / 302-831-8407 /



Office Staff

Lynne Perry -- Administrative Assistant

Lexie Samick - Administrative Assistant

152 Townsend Hall / 302-831-1392 /


Student Employees

Andrew Bogush (Office Assistant)

Michael Wubbenhorst (Lab Assistant)





Copyright © 2012-2013 Last Updated: 10/20/2015