EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – After more than 100 years on the school’s campus, MSU’s soil testing lab is shutting its doors for good.
“I’ve been here for almost 40 years myself, so it’s sad to see it closing,” said Lab Manager Jon Dahl.
“We do testing for farmers, homeowners, researchers so it’s going to affect quite a few people,” said Dahl.
But in recent years, the demand has decreased. The lab went from seeing more than 30,000 samples annually to fewer than 10,000 after the pandemic.
Now, the university will partner with a commercial lab for testing.
Some farmers like Ned Birkey from IDA say commercial labs aren’t sufficient. He’s a retired educator from MSU.
“There’s nobody down here to interpret any results from a commercial lab,” said Birkey.
Birkey started using the school’s soil testing lab back in 1989.
He’s worried because the lab helped fight the algae problem in Lake Erie during the past decade.
“Farmers already have a bullseye on their back, because of over-applying nutrients. And so we have been desperately trying to keep the nutrients out of Lake Erie and the lab provides a vital part of that,” he said.
But the director of Ag-Bio at MSU says farmers will benefit from the school’s new model. He compares their new process to doctors getting analysis for blood samples.
“The doctor orders blood work, that blood work is sent out to a commercial laboratory, the results come back to the doctor, they are reviewed with the patient and then recommendations are made. In essence, that is the new model for the future of the soil testing laboratory,” said Director George W. Smith.
Four employees will be out of work when the lab closes on December 31.
“I will be retiring at the end of December, so it won’t affect me so much, but I kind of feel sorry for the two workers I have who will need to find other jobs,” said Dahl.