Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory




The Cornell Nutrition Analysis Program (CNAL) is an integrated research, teaching and extension/service analytical facility. The laboratory currently provide analytical support (analyses and training) in support of the research programs of more than 40 faculty members in 10 different departments at Cornell University. In addition, the laboratory staff provides training for undergraduate and graduate students in soil, plant, water and environmental analyses and interpretations of results. The laboratory's research and environmental programs currently analyze about 15,000 samples annually. Through local Cornell Cooperative Extension and Soil and Water Conservation District offices and other venues, CNAL also analyses approximately 15,000 soil samples for soil fertility status and 5,000 tissue samples for fruit tree nutrient status and supplies unbiased fertility recommendations based on CALS faculty research in the areas of field crop, vegetable, ornamental, tree fruit, berry, grapevines, and turfgrass production.


The Cornell nutrient Analysis Laboratory was established to:1) Promote agricultural and environmental management in New York State by increasing the efficiency of production of the state`s field, vegetable and fruit crops through the development, use and acceptance of research based soil and tissue testing methods and un-biased fertilizer recommendation principles; Provide accurate and cost effective analysis of soil, tissue and environmental materials in a timely manner;• Promote integration of the laboratory services with other related disciplines and faculty expertise in developing fertilizer recommendations, analytical techniques and testing methods;• Promote and develop educational activities related to soil and plant sampling, testing and fertilizer recommendations such as workshops, meetings, demonstrations and displays, and the preparation and distribution of educational materials;• Cooperate with policy makers, educational institutions and regulatory agencies concerning important issues associated with any segment of the soil, plant, and water testing services. Provide analytical services to research communities within and outside Cornell University; • Assist faculty, staff and students in developing appropriate sample preparation techniques and instrumentation procedures specific to their research needs;• Modify or develop test methods to meet ever-evolving needs of stakeholders.• Collaborate with research faculty and other laboratories in evaluating and developing new analytical methods. 3. Educate students and professionals in analytical techniques and methodologies;• Demonstrate and provide state-of-the art equipment, discuss results and their applications;• Integrate laboratory services with undergraduate and graduate level courses.• Train CU students and staff on equipment so they can analyze their samples for a reduced fee;• Provide tours to school and community college students, foreign visitors and other stakeholders. These tours include explanations on analytical process, laboratory equipment and quality control procedures. 4. Collaborate closely with other university laboratories, and private laboratories with method development, troubleshooting and quality assurance/quality control issues.


Across its four missions, the laboratory provided a wide spectrum of testing programs for soils, plants, water and other agricultural and environmental materials. Fee-based programs were made available to all University faculty and staff as well as the public. The laboratory supported the research, teaching, and extension programs of more than 40 faculty members in six departments within CALS and four departments outside of CALS. The laboratory analyzed approximately 36,000 samples and trained students on several instruments, making it possible for them to analyze their samples at a discounted price. New website and submission forms (37 forms) were developed that were user friendly and easier for stakeholders to locate information of interest and submit samples. Protocol for a new test (late season stalk nitrate test) was developed and implemented for assessing the nitrogen status of the soil for corn production. E-reporting of soil test data was developed and implemented to integrate CNAL data with cropware software.


The CNAL within CALS functions as an integrated research, teaching and service/extension unit. Teaching: Approximately 90 undergraduate and graduate students obtained hands-on experience in soil, plant, water and environmental analyses, and interpretation of results through academic courses, directed group study, and individual research projects. In addition, the laboratory was visited by primary, secondary, and high schools and technical community colleges in New York (approximately 50 students, three teachers and two professors, and 10 Master gardeners), national and international groups (approximately 30 students and 20visiting scientists) interested in learning about soil, plant and water testing and other analytical techniques. The laboratory provided technical expertise to individuals in an international agency interested in establishing soil testing labs. The laboratory also offered students an opportunity to train on sophisticated analytical instruments and provides the hands-on experience they need for their post graduate career. Research: The laboratory developed and implemented a new test (late season stalk nitrate test) to assess the nitrogen status of the soils for corn production. We compared and calibrated the Lime requirement methods to determine the best method suitable for determining the lime recommendations for new york soils. We developed and established protocols for analyzing manure, compost, sludge, and topsoil samples. The laboratory analyzes approximately 18000 samples under its research and environmental programs. Extension: The laboratory analyzed 15,000 – 18,000 soil samples from farms and homeowner gardens and generated unbiased, research-based fertilizer recommendations based on soil characteristics, cropping system, and field history. Major stakeholders included Cornell Cooperative Extension, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the New York City Watershed Program. These organizations as well as other stakeholders use Cornell's Morgan soil test as the basis for environmentally and economically sound nutrient management planning in New York. The laboratory provided services to homeowners and conducted soil analyses for fruit and vegetable producers based on recommendations for fruits, trees, vegetables, and gardens supplied by the Department of Horticulture. The laboratory also analyzed approximately 700 plant samples and provided fertilizer recommendations as service to the fruit and vegetable industry. Laboratory personnel answered questions on testing procedures and data interpretation for environmental as well as agricultural management and planning needs.

Submitted by: 

  • van Es, Harold M

Researchers involved: 

  • Ketterings, Quirine
  • Scheider, Rebecca
  • Geohring, Larry D
  • Pritts, Marvin P
  • van Es, Harold M
  • Dokuchayeva, Tatyana
  • Parra, Alejandro
  • Petrovich, Martin
  • Reiners, Stephen
  • DeGloria, Stephen D
  • Miles, Michael
  • McBride, Murray B
  • Wolfe, David W

Organizations involved: 


International focus: 

  • Bangladesh
  • Bolivia
  • Canada
  • Colombia
  • Honduras
  • India
  • Kenya
  • Mexico
  • Nepal
  • Turkey
  • United States of America

United States focus: 

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia

New York State focus: 

  • Delaware