Recent attempts to blind sample forage-testing labs — and results showing wide variations within and among labs — have led the National Forage Testing Association (NFTA) board to take steps to initiate its own blind tests.
Yet the board will, in the next month, first ask its members to discuss blind-sample testing and whether results will be published, says Don Meyer, association president.
“We basically sent a letter out to the labs saying that it (test results) would be published and we'll get some of what the feedback has been from laboratories,” Meyer says. He has scheduled a feedback conference call with NFTA-certified labs for Sept. 4.
“The goal of NFTA has always been to help improve lab performance,” he adds. “To me, publishing before we have all our ducks in a row is not something we should be doing. And laboratories should have an opportunity to go through one of these blind-sample analyses, see how well they perform against other labs and make adjustments based on the last blind test.”
Meyer's lab, Rock River Labora-tory, Watertown, WI, was one of 21 labs blind tested this winter by National Hay Association (NHA) and Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Associa-tion members. Results of the blind-sample tests were to be published by this magazine. But because of miscommunications between the entities testing the labs and some of the labs involved, only general results have been made public (see “Insight From Blind Samples,” May issue).
NFTA has, in the past, sent ground samples to labs to test whether they meet certification requirements. Labs, however, could easily recognize the ground samples as from NFTA and have given them special attention to ensure recertification, hay growers and university experts have charged.
“A lot of the interest in having the NHA study published comes from AFGC (American Forage and Grassland Council) and NHA members on the NFTA board,” Meyer says.
“They feel like, for too long, we have not gotten tough enough with labs. But we need to do it in steps. I think we can do this in the next year but we still need to be rock-solid in our procedures.”