Biome Makers Blog

A Retailer's How-To for Using DNA Soil Testing

Addressing Grower Questions on Biostimulant Products with DNA Soil Testing

Farmers are eager to optimize yields and minimize costs but may find themselves at a crossroads when trying new things on the farm, like biologicals, a trending topic in agriculture today. How can farmers invest in biologicals without breaking the bank, and which product is the right one?

And what if there was a way to make more confident and informed decisions on these investments? A simple soil sample, coupled with DNA soil testing, could become the farmer's secret weapon in the journey for cost-effective input programs.

Forward-thinking ag retailers and co-ops are employing biological soil tests to uncover their customers specific soil requirements, whether it be a biocontrol product for pest management, biostimulants for growth enhancement, or biofertility for enriching the soil. 

In a recent webinar, "DNA Soil Testing: Retailers Addressing Grower Questions on Biostimulant Products," Technical Account Lead and Soil Health Specialist Meri Lillia Mullins explores the impact of biological soil testing on crop yields and how it can serve as a compass when recommendation which biological products are the right fit. In this blog, we'll discuss key insights from the webinar, offering a step-by-step guide for retailers and growers eager to harness the power of DNA soil testing and biostimulant products.

Want to watch the webinar? You can register here >>

What Role Does Soil Biology Play in Selecting the Right Biological Product?

The biological ag input market is increasing every day. While new products are driving a constant influx of information on how biologicals can impact crop performance and soil health, new microbes are also being discovered every day. Amidst all this complexity, retailers and co-ops may struggle to provide informed soil input recommendations to optimize customer returns. Biome Makers can help. 

We work with retailers to create custom input recommendation tools, powered by AI and loaded with relevant product test data, so they can better recommend products to their customers to optimize the living system of the soil.

The Soil as a Living System

How do we optimize the living system of soil health? We look to soil microbes. While historical research has often emphasized the impact of harmful fungi and bacteria on crop growth, there is increasing recognition of the critical role of beneficial microbes in facilitating crop nutrient mobilization, enhancing soil structure, water retention, and disease resistance. 

Microbes also play a vital role in soil aggregation, aiding in the formation of stable soil structure, and recent research has revealed that the microbial community is one major factor influencing soil health and resiliency. Successful application of microbes helps maintain soil health and improve water holding capacity, carbon storage, and root growth, which are essential for sustainable agriculture and human health. Understanding and managing the diverse functions of soil microbes is essential for harnessing their power to improve soil health, nutrient cycling, and plant growth, thereby paving the way for more holistic and sustainable soil management practices.

Nutrient Mobilization

Depending on which biological product one chooses to employ, beneficial microbes play a crucial role in facilitating the movement of essential nutrients through crop root systems. For example, some microbes can solubilize and mobilize vital nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and selenium, thereby promoting plant growth and development by converting these nutrients into plant-available forms. This process helps in plant stress adaptation, hormone production, proper water holding, and resilience to pathogens.

Disease Triangle

A fundamental concept in plant pathology is the disease triangle. For disease to flourish in soil, there must be a perfect mix of pathogen presence, a favorable environment, and a susceptible host. The presence of one or more of these factors does not mean the existence of disease, which is why traditional chemistry and cutting-edge biological products are both important options for diagnosing plant health. Poor plant leaf tissue nutrient levels may indicate susceptibility due to nutrient deficiencies, while environmental and climatic factors are also important factors to consider when evaluating disease dynamics. Biological soil testing offers the ability to directly measure one major corner of the disease triangle: pathogen presence and abundance.

Disease Triangle


Which biological is the correct one to choose?

Biologicals can be classified into three main categories: biocontrol, biostimulant, and biofertility. 

  1. Biocontrol agents are organisms antagonistic to crop pests. They effectively reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides. 
  2. Biostimulants, on the other hand, consist of substances and/or microorganisms catalyzing natural plant processes. Harnessing these processes, they enhance nutrient absorption, incorporating a variety of ingredients like microorganisms, plant or seaweed extracts, organic molecules, and inorganic elements. They contribute to plant health by improving soil quality, nutrient access, stimulating defenses, enhancing root growth, and elevating produce quality. gap
  3. Biofertilizers products can stimulate nutrient uptake processes, such as nitrogen fixation or phosphorus solubilization, and improve crop yield and quality. Living microorganisms in biofertilizers may establish residence in the rhizosphere or within the plant, augmenting essential nutrient supply.

Benefits of Chemical Soil Testing vs. Biological Soil Testing

Most farmers perform crop fertility tests once a year or every other year. At Biome Makers, we prescribe to the saying, "Test, Don't Guess." Soil testing gives farmers a good picture of which biological products are right for them based on their specific field-level needs, steering away from a generic approach that might hinder peak crop yields. This also allows the best biocontrol agents to be picked for full crop protection. 

biology testing to compliment fertility analysis

"We've used fertility testing to prescribe our chemistry for a really long time, and we now have the technology to do the same thing with biology." - Meri Lillia Mullins, Biome Makers Technical Account Lead and Soil Health Specialist

When DNA sequencing and bioinformatics are utilized, soil microbes' potential can be analyzed, changing the game regarding crop fertility decision-making. Chemical and biological testing complement one another. 

For example, suppose there's a gap between applied fertilizer units and actual bushel yield. In that case, this may indicate a lack of biological activity, leading to inefficient fertilizer use and reduced yields. Biological soil testing, like Biome Makers BeCrop® Test, shows the biological nutrient mobility present, better informing the results of potential nutrients available from chemical soil tests.  

Biome Makers' BeCrop® Reports

A BeCrop® Test is powered by BeCrop® Technology, which utilizes amplicon sequencing and  AI-driven bioinformatics to analyze soil ecosystems. We extract DNA from the soil and sequence it, allowing us to view a long list of microbes present in the earth and how these microbial communities interact with one another. 

Biome Makers has the world's most extensive taxonomic reference base and library of microbes—a resource growing in data yearly. When farmers understand their unique soil's biology, it's significantly easier to prevent diseases and nutrient deficiencies proactively. Plants that have more robust stress management capabilities produce larger crop yields. Biostimulants like algae or kelp-based products with carbon components can address soil health issues such as low potassium mobilization, low nitrogen mobilization, and low salicylic acid production.

The Future of Soil Analysis

Biome Makers’ commitment extends beyond merely understanding the functions of soil microbes—we're dedicated to unraveling their impact on the entire lifecycle of soil. It's not just about their individual roles; it's about comprehending how these microscopic players influence the broader ecosystem of crops. 

What does all this mean for farmers? It means that we can embrace a holistic, ecologically informed approach to crop care by embracing and leveraging soil biology and going beyond conventional methods. Instead of basing BeCrop index interpretations on simple cause and effect relationships, Biome Makers considers the multitude of interconnected biological factors that drive microbial impacts on crop production.

For farmers eager to further understand biological product benefits, we invite you to watch our webinar recording

Retailers Getting Started with Biome Makers: A Proactive Approach to Soil Health

1. Schedule a Personalized BeCrop® Demo:

Make an appointment for a private demonstration with one of our knowledgeable Biome Makers specialists to get started on your research. See for yourself how our cutting-edge solutions may completely transform the way you recommend products to your customers.

Schedule a demo here >>

2. Engage in Meaningful Conversations:

Talk to your farmer clients about their current fertilizer and soil testing procedures. Recognize their particular wants and obstacles to customize your product offerings to meet their needs properly.

3. Strategize Soil Sampling:

Work with your clients to develop a well-thought-out plan for soil sampling. Talk about the areas of concentration, the ideal times to gather soil samples, and any particular issues they would like to take care of. This proactive measure guarantees that the recommendations that follow are exactly in line with the properties of the soil. 

4. Simple Submission of Soil Samples

Simplify the process by sending in your collected soil samples to our state-of-the-art laboratories. Our streamlined submission procedure ensures that your samples reach us effortlessly, ready to undergo comprehensive analysis. Here is a Step-by-Step Guide to conducting your soil sampling.

5. Receive Comprehensive Results:

Receive your comprehensive DNA soil test results performed by our state-of-the-art BeCrop® Test which is powered by BeCrop® Technology. Learn about the distinct microbial makeup of the soil to help you make decisions that will best support crop growth.

6. Precision in Product Recommendations:

With the research at their disposal, retailers can now assist farmers in suggesting the best products for their unique soil conditions. Personalized guidance ensures farmers maximize their agricultural return on investment by investing in the appropriate biostimulants, biocontrols, or biofertility solutions.


The adoption of DNA soil testing, particularly through the BeCrop® Test, emerges as a strategic option to the challenges presented by integrating biologicals. With farmers struggling to make decisions about which product is the best fit, the efficiency of a soil sample and DNA soil testing becomes an invaluable tool for developing affordable input programs.

Agricultural retailers and cooperatives who use biological soil testing can identify the unique soil needs of each farm and then customize biocontrol, biostimulants, or biofertility programs. Retailers and growers alike can use this customized strategy, which was covered in the webinar "DNA Soil Testing: Retailers Addressing Grower Questions on Biostimulant Products," as a guide while navigating the complex world of biological products.

Get a BeCrop Test Demo today