- Associated Press - Sunday, January 31, 2016

MATANUSKA EXPERIMENT FARM, Alaska (AP) - Gardeners looking to science to balance their soil nutrients will have to send their samples out of state with the imminent closure of the Alaska’s only soil sampling lab.

University of Alaska Fairbanks budget cuts are closing the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Soil and Plant Analysis Laboratory, where Melissa Dick is the one full-time scientist, the Alaska Dispatch News reported (http://bit.ly/1PO4oid).

Thousands of soil samples are tested at the facility each year for data on nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and pH.

Dick’s last day is expected to be in February or March. The lab is no longer accepting samples.

On Monday, Dick was processing samples for a local high schools student’s project.

“I hate having to direct people out of state,” she said. “In Alaska, we don’t want to send money out.”

Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station director Milan Shipka says the lab’s closure is expected to save $90,000 this year.

The lab costs more than those in the Lower 48, and doesn’t give as detailed information.

“We all like to see Alaskans providing service to Alaskans but we can’t do everything,” Shipka said. “We’re a little state. And we’re a very, very little experiment station.”

Lab research led to the development of a technique for growing grass slowly on gravel runways to trap rocks while preventing damage to aircrafts without turning land into meadows.

“That lab has been responsible for saving the aviation industry probably millions of dollars in aircraft damage,” said Mat-Su Agricultural Extension agent Steve Brown. “The closing of the lab has so many ripple effects that are just hard to calculate.”

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Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, http://www.adn.com

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