Ohio farmers needed to participate in soil fertility projects

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COLUMBUS — The Ohio State Soil Fertility Lab is looking for farmers and crop consultants from across the state to cooperate with a number of projects this year.

According to Steve Culman, soil fertility specialist at Ohio State, the lab is in the process of updating the tri-state fertilizer recommendations in corn, soybean, and wheat, looking specifically at nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in corn, soybean and wheat. Culman said the major undertaking will collect data from a large number of farms across the state and determine economically optimum fertilization rates to maximize farmer profitability.

Experiments will involve either applying additional fertilizer or no fertilizer to replicated strip plots, he explained, and farmers can choose which nutrient they’d like to work with and will have a large degree of flexibility in the plot layout and applied rates.

The coordinators are looking for farms that capture a diversity of soil types, and are especially interested in fields that test low in P and K. For a limited number of sites, the soil fertility lab can come in after planting and impose treatments and handle all the data collection.

Farmers will be paid for their time and effort.

What’s involved

Data to be collected include: soil sample before planting; leaf nutrient analysis at early reproductive stage; grain yields at harvest and nutrient analysis of grain. Farmers will also be asked to complete a short questionnaire about soil management.

Second project

The lab is also looking for participants to help with soil active organic matter testing, Culman said.

Active organic matter is only a small fraction (5-20%) of the soil’s total organic matter, but is important to crop nutrition since nutrients in this fraction are rapidly cycled and taken up by crops. He said the project’s goal is to better understand active organic matter and to develop a farmer-test to complement traditional soil testing.

Organizers are looking for farms of all types of crops and sizes — both conventional and certified organic. Farmers will mail in soil from their fields with a short questionnaire. A full standard soil test (total OM, pH, CEC, extractable base cations and micronutrients) will be run, as well as three new soil tests of active organic matter with no charge to the farmer. Individual soil results will be shared only with the farmer, while summarized results from across the state will be shared with all cooperators.

Farmers interested in cooperating with either project are asked to contact Steve Culman at culman.2@osu.edu or call 330-263-3787.

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