Saskatoon researchers, Schoenau, Rahman, Hangs and Peak used the Canadian Light Source synchrotron to look at soil variability for micronutrients. That issue has long been a issue for producers and the study confirmed the need for concern and soil testing, but it also gave soil scientists more information about the relationship of copper, zinc and boron deficiencies to soil types and activities.
In some cases these elements may appear to be present, but are not bioavailable or distributed evenly. The CLS tools let the researchers dig deeper into measuring the distribution of these nutrients, their supply rates and separation into various chemical pools.
The study showed that carbonate content was the most variable in the soils studied, while pH was the least. Copper and boron availability in sandy soils was shown to be an issue, while in grey soils organic carbon was shown having a positive effect on these nutrients. Organic carbon also was shown to have positive effects on zinc’s presence in brown and dark brown soils.
In general the study showed that low organic carbon levels and high sand presence were responsible for deficiencies of copper, boron and zinc.
X-ray absorption near edge structure toolset, known as XANES, showed researchers that copper and zinc that are associated with carbonate minerals were the dominant forms of these two micronutrients in all soil types tested. Most of the bioavailable copper and zinc in prairie soils appears to be regulated by more activities taking place in the soil, with the elements exchanging or sharing electrons, making the nutrients more available to plants.