Samoa can produce high quality soil analysis

Two state-of-the-art machines now make Samoa the first country in the Pacific to produce world-standard soil analysis. 

Thanks to the University of the South Pacific Alafua Campus, countries and education institutions around the region are able to know how fertile their land is through quality analysis. 

The first machine, Carbon and Nitrogen analyser, was installed this year and has been used for research by students, some regional countries and the local Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. 

“This instrument can measure the carbon and nutrient content of soil, plant and animal feed samples, and it can also analyse one sample within four-five minutes compared to the initial method, which took about 30 minutes,” says Senior Lecturer for Soil Science, Mohammed Kader.

“Normally, this machine is used by world standard labs for analysing of soil, plant and animal feed samples. This is mainly used for research, and students are being taught how to use the machine.”

Mr. Kader said the last time soil analysis was done in Samoa was in 1965, and since then no carbon and nitrogen contents were analysed. 

“Everybody is saying that fertility is declining, but no quantitative analysis was done in a large scale because of the lack of the proper instruments, so now we have this machine to check for the carbon and nitrogen contents if they are increasing or decreasing because of the land use sales and cultivation,” he said. 

The other machine is the ICP Spectrometer, which can analyse 10-20 elements from one soil sample within one-two minutes. 

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“This machine can also analyse the environmental pollutants, particularly the acidic, led, mercury content of the soil,” Mr. Kader said.  

“We can also analyse the drinking water standards because it contains led, mercury etc. Now in Samoa, I think they are analysing their water abroad, but now we have this facility and we can do it here. 

“We haven’t started using this machine because we will install it next year around March.  This machine can analyse micro nutrient contents of the soil with small amount in plant, water.”

With the results produced, the Campus is also able to provide proper feedback to help improve soil contents.  

“We provide services to other people like commercial farmers, we analyse their soils and give them feedback on the content of their soil, and also offer fertiliser recommendations based on those analysis,” Mr. Kader said. 

“You go to any fertilizer companies in the Pacific, you see some kind of formulation like 10, 15, NPK and when a farmer looks at it, he does not know what those numbers mean and which one he should buy, but this machine also gives numbers. 

“So the analysis will help farmers understand and know how much to apply or use on their farms. So it’s sort of telling them too don’t waste your money on fertilizer you don’t need.”

“The quality of the fertilizer in the market, they are saying 15 percent nitrogen, but farmers do not know whether it’s really 15 percent, but we can still test it and also the quality of the fertilizer that commercial shops are selling, whether it is correct or not. Investigate the quality of the fertilizer.” 

Mr. Kader said Samoa has the advantage because the machine is in Samoa, and U.S.P. is ready to support M.A.F. if they need help, as well as the National University of Samoa and the region.

“These two machines complement each other. They use the same elements. That machine does carbon and nitrogen and the other one does other elements, many elements.”

The machine is manufactured by Thermo Scientific, an American company, and was purchased from New Zealand.

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