Environmental Services

The Agriculture & Food Laboratory (AFL) is client service driven to provide accurate, timely, and useful environmental testing services for soil, wastewater, biosolid and vegetation samples. Standard services include both inorganic and organic analyses using a variety of test methods including chromatography based testing (i.e. GC and HPLC coupled to mass spectrometry) and non chromatographic based testing (i.e. ICP-MS). 

We are committed to delivering the highest quality analytical data with integrity and strive to meet current and new demands of our clients.

Our Expertise

Learn more below about our environmental testing services:

 Non-Agricultural Source Material (NASM) Package

This is a testing package in support of the land application Non-Agricultural Source Material (NASM) to comply with the Nutrient Management Act, 2002.

Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen (TKN), Ammonium-Nitrogen, Nitrate + Nitrite-Nitrogen, Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Sodium (Na), and dry matter. Environmental metals can also be included if required.

Environmental Metals

Our testing includes the quantification of environmental metal in soil, NASM, manure and waste samples using trace level analytical techniques.

Elemental compounds detected include nitric/hydrochloric acid digestible Arsenic (As), Selenium (Se), Cobalt (Co), Chromium (Cr), Cadmium (Cd), Copper (Cu), Mercury (Hg), Molybdenum (Mo), Nickel (Ni), Lead (Pb), and Zinc (Zn).

Molecular Analyses

Applied Research

We are dedicated to keeping apprised of new and cost-effective molecular methodologies as they continue to advance rapidly. We have successfully developed, validated and implemented many molecular methodologies for both routine testing and analytical needs in research projects.

Automated DNA Sequencing

  • ABI 3730 DNA Analyzer (sequencer)
  • Accurate, timely results
  • Long read (up to 1000 bases) on good quality DNA
  • Trouble-shooting and re-sequencing, as applicable
  • Primer design & synthesis
  • DNA isolation/purification as needed
  • Expert technical advice
  • Storage of templates and primers (3 months)
  • Editing and assembly as needed
  • Competitive pricing and volume discounts
  • Free common primers (30 in total)
  • Sequencing project packages (from cloning to data annotation)
  • Online ordering and data downloading (DNA Sequencing Page)

For more information contact us.

DNA Fingerprinting and Fluorescent Fragment Analysis

DNA fingerprinting has a wide range of applications in agriculture and food sectors such as variety (or species) identification, variety (or species) identity preservation, genetic marker identification, microbial contamination tracing and pathogen-outbreak investigation. DNA fingerprinting is conducted in our lab on any biological materials using technologies including Microsatellite analysis, rep-PCR, RAPD, T-RFLP, MLVA, MLST and AFLP (for research), and more. We also provide services for fluorescent fragment analysis.

DNA Isolation and Banking

We routinely isolate DNA from all kinds of food, feed, water, environment, plants and animal blood, tissue, semen and fecal samples. We provide DNA extraction services not only for immediate use of DNA but also for DNA banking or long-term storage purposes.

Microbial (bacterium, yeast and fungus) Species Identification

We conduct routine identification of "unknown" microorganisms (bacterium, yeast and fungus) in pure cultures using DNA from the microorganisms. You will receive objective, reproducible and cost-effective results rapidly without relying on growth, biochemical reaction or prior knowledge of the organism (e.g. Gram stain). Project packages for identifying the microbial community in a sample are available.

Oligo Synthesis

Custom nucleic acid oligos are synthesized using the ABI 3900 DNA Synthesizer. Oligo orders are on-line at the OLIGO page. The website will also help you to track (or manage) your orders. Primer design is available upon request. Modifications include (but not limited to) fluorescent labeling, inosine modified base, phosphorylation, terminal amine and biotinylation. Normal oligos are delivered or sent out the next business day for orders received before 3:00 PM. Delivery is free for University of Guelph and neighbouring clients. Volume discounts are available.

For more information contact us.

PCR Detection and Molecular Sub-typing of Food/Waterborne Pathogens

  • Salmonella
  • E. coli O157:H7
  • Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC or VTEC)
  • Campylobacter
  • Listeria
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Giardia

If you have concerns about microbial contamination or pathogen-outbreak, our highly educated and dedicated scientists may provide the key to solving your food safety or environmental issues. Rest assured, we take your concerns seriously and will help you get the answers you need to keep your product moving quickly.

Real-time PCR

Quantitative real-time PCR is used to determine the percentage of a particular target DNA or RNA in a sample. Our technology platform is the ABI PrismTM 7500 FAST Sequence Detection System.

Pesticide Residues

We can analyze virtually any food type (fresh or processed) for pesticide residues. We are currently able to analyze greater than 500 active ingredients using a broad range of multi-residue and single residue tests. Our test methods primarily use mass spectrometry as the method of detection (LC-MS/MS or GC-MS/MS) with detection limits typically ranging from the part per trillion to low part per billion range.  We also have a broad range of other methods of detection available where required.

Currently, neonicotinoids, a relatively new class of insecticide, are in wide use globally. These more water soluble compounds are taken up by plants to provide protection from insects.

In 2011-12 the AFL established a method for testing this class of insecticide in a number of bee related products (i.e. honey, pollen, beeswax), as well as bees themselves, to help determine the extent of exposure which may be occurring. We also test a range of environmental samples where bees and other insects may be additionally exposed to these compounds such as water, soil and vegetation. In addition, we can screen for these pesticides in fruits, vegetables, animal tissues and treated seeds.

Please contact us to find more about our pesticide testing services, and how we can meet your needs.

Water Analysis

NOTE: the following tests are NOT suitable for drinking water testing. Methods are for surface and agricultural water samples.

pH as received
E.C. Electrical Conductivity, as received
Phosphorus Directed colourimetric, total reactive phosphorus
Ammonium Dissolved NH4-N
Nitrate Dissolved NO3-N
Chloride Dissolved Cl
Dissolved Element Package B, K, Mg, Na, Ca, Mn, Zn, Cu, Fe, Mo, P, S

Drinking Water

AFL is licensed to provide microbial testing for drinking water under Ont. Reg 318/319 and Ont. Reg. 170 for E.coli/Total coliform and Heterotrophic Plate Count.

Please contact us prior to filling out submission forms or sending samples. 

PLEASE NOTE:  for Small Drinking Water Systems (SDWS), please contact us for appropriate testing and submission information.

Manure and Waste Analysis

Manure Package Total Kjeldahl N, P & K, NH4 and percent dry matter in manures and other wastes.
TKN Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen
Calcium Microwave digest performed on sample as received
Magnesium Microwave digest performed on sample as received
Potassium Microwave digest performed on sample as received
Phosphorus Microwave digest performed on sample as received
Sodium Microwave digest performed on sample as received
Carbon Package Total, organic and inorganic C in solid or slurry samples (Combustion method).
Total Carbon Total C in solid or slurry samples (Combustion method).
Dry Matter Dried at 105ºC
Loss on Ignition Loss on ignition at 425ºC
Manure Ammonium and Nitrate KCl extractable NH4-N and NO3-N.
Environmental Metals Nitric/hydrochloric Acid digestible As, Se, Co, Cr, Cd, Cu, Hg, Mo, Ni, Pb and Zn.
pH (sat. paste) Standard saturated paste method.
E.C. Electrical Conductivity 2:1 method.