Ohio grain farmers invest in updated nutrient management


COLUMBUS — Thanks to support from the Ohio Corn Marketing Program, Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program and Ohio Soybean Council, a tool that farmers use to make nutrient management decisions will be getting a much needed update.

Dr. Steve Culman, with The Ohio State University, has begun work to revise the Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations, a tool that farmers use to help determine how much of a nutrient to apply in order to grow a crop and minimize runoff risk.

The recommendations were originally developed in 1995, but have not been updated since that time.

“The Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations were the culmination of 40 years of field studies,” said Culman. “It looks at the soil test results of phosphorus levels, as well as other nutrients, and tells a farmer what level of fertilizer they should have in their soil to see optimum yield without over applying the nutrient.”

Nutrient efficiency

It helps the farmer be as efficient with nutrients as possible without sacrificing production.

Revising the Tri-State won’t happen in a vacuum. Dr. Culman is working closely with other researchers and using the most recent data available from multiple sources.

One of those sources is On Field Ohio, an edge-of-field monitoring program that began with initial funding from grain farmers in 2012.

Getting results

The On Field Ohio program, led by Dr. Elizabeth Dayton of OSU, is measuring what nutrients are leaving farm fields and what practices do or do not help keep those nutrients where they belong.

The results will be used to revise how runoff risk is calculated, while Dr. Culman’s work will take it one step farther. He will combine it with relevant crop yield data to develop precise recommendations to grow the best possible crop without over applying fertilizer.

“We are investing in this project to help farmers be as efficient as possible with their nutrients,” said Terry McClure, Ohio grain farmer from Paulding County. “This not only helps save farmers money, but it also helps them grow a good crop and minimize runoff at the same time. We don’t have to sacrifice one for the other, we can achieve both.”

New methods

Why now? Dr. Culman explains that farmers aren’t farming the same way they did 20 years ago and the Tri-State needs to reflect those changes to be useful to them.

“Farming has changed significantly over the past two decades,” Culman said. “A larger number of farmers are using conservation tillage and cover crops on their farms. They use precision technology such as GPS and grid sampling. The crops have been bred to be stronger and more resistant to pests and diseases. We must keep an open mind and look at this from a fresh perspective.”

The work to update these valuable recommendations is only one of many programs currently supported by the state’s corn, soybean and wheat organizations, which represent all Ohio grain farmers.


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