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Accuracy and precision of plant biomass mineral analyses


Laboratory accuracy and precision are essential for scientific research in order to obtain reliable and repeatable results on which scientific and other decisions are based.  Accuracy refers to the closeness of a measured value to a standard or known value. Precision refers to the closeness of two or more measurements to each other. 

In the March-April issue of Agronomy Journal, the precision and accuracy of laboratories that conduct mineral analyses of plant biomass on a fee basis was tested by having them conduct mineral analyses on subsamples of the same set of switchgrass samples and a certified biomass standard.  Mineral content of biomass can affect its use in conversion to bioenergy and its feed value for animals. 

Laboratories differed significantly in both accuracy and precision even though several used the same analysis method indicating that the differences among laboratories were due to within laboratory procedures and quality control.  Laboratories should be using sample standards to monitor both precision and accuracy of their analyses. 

It would be advisable for researchers submitting samples to service laboratories to replicate the unknown samples to determine precision and to include replicated standards among the submitted samples to determine accuracy. 

Read the full article in Agronomy Journal. Free preview May 12- May 19