The Agronomic Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has some good news for anyone submitting soil samples during this busy season. It has just implemented a new tracking system that will send clients an e-mail when the laboratory receives their samples.

Using this service is easy. Go to the division’s Web site, www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/, follow the links to print a bar-coded address label, and tape it to the sample shipping package.

“Every year from December through March, our department receives hundreds of thousands of soil samples,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The lab staff answers a steady stream of calls from folks who want to know if their samples have arrived. We hope the bar-code tracking system will ease customers’ minds and help them estimate when their reports might be available.”

Troxler pointed out that sample processing does not begin right when samples arrive. Depending on how busy the lab is, it may be several days or weeks before analysis begins. The notification e-mail will provide a Web link where clients can check the estimated sample turnaround time based on the date of arrival.

The bar codes can be used on packages shipped through the U.S. Postal Service, by private carriers such as DHL, FedEx and UPS, or even by personal delivery. Although private carriers have their own bar-code system, packages have been known to be delivered to the wrong address and never show up at the lab. By having its own bar-code system, NCDA&CS can provide an extra layer of accountability for its customers, Troxler said.

Bar-code labels can be used on shipments of any samples sent to the NCDA&CS Agronomic Division, including plant tissue, compost or waste, nutrient solution or source water, and nematodes. It is important, however, that multiple types of samples be packaged separately. All the samples within an individual shipping box should be of the same type.

For additional information about collecting, packaging or submitting agronomic samples, contact your NCDA&CS regional agronomist, visit www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/ or call the Agronomic Division at (919) 733-2655.