Ohio and North Central U.S. Soil Fertility Survey

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A Vital First Step in Updating Soil Fertility Management Recommendations for Commercial, Field and High Tunnel Vegetable Production in Ohio and the North Central U.S.

Background

Commercial vegetable growers in Ohio and the North Central U.S. use many crops, varieties, and soils and open fields and high tunnels in their operations. Farm soil fertility management plans should be calibrated for each set of production conditions. Research-based recommendations updated to account for new production, market, regulatory and other conditions can assist growers in this calibration.

When done correctly, updating vegetable soil fertility management recommendations is a large, complex job. Completing it well requires teamwork and reliable information.

The first step is to document the current condition of Ohio and North Central U.S. vegetable soils. The major characteristics of these soils (e.g., their pH, organic matter, salinity and macro- and micro-nutrient levels) must be clear before recommendations to improve them can be modernized.

Visiting all Ohio and North Central U.S. vegetable farms, collecting and analyzing many thousands of soil samples and scrutinizing the data would give the most accurate assessment of the current condition of Ohio and North Central U.S. soils. This approach is impossible at this time. So, a different, lower-cost and time-saving approach must be used. Instead, we ask commercial growers to share information already in their files – i.e., copies of their current soil test reports.

Information in these reports is vital to the process of modernizing soil fertility management recommendations. When summarized, the information will provide a snapshot assessment of the status of Ohio and North Central U.S. vegetable soils. That snapshot, in turn, will point the industry-university team toward the most important follow-up work to improve the health of Ohio and North Central U.S. vegetable soils, particularly as it is influenced by applications of fertilizers and other materials.

Again, the job is challenging and requires teamwork. The VPSL aims to partner with growers, soil testing services, consultants and others in the effort. The VPSL will organize and crunch the numbers. We will also work with farmers and experts to identify and share what is to be learned from them. We ask growers to start the process by sharing numbers. Sharing copies of soil test reports has a big upside and no known drawbacks. In fact, participation is free and easy and offers growers some advantages.

Regarding advantages, each cooperating farm will receive a customized master report listing results from the analysis of their soils compared to the remainder of a comparable test group – for example, other tomato growers, other sweet corn growers, other diversified organic vegetable growers, other high tunnel tomato growers, and so on. With their customized master report, participating farmers will be able to compare soil test results from their farm to a much larger group of farms with similar cropping plans. Also, in the short-term, the project team will be able to identify irregularities in reports and troubleshoot privately with farmers. Longer term, participating farms will be among the first sites where follow-up research is conducted; this research will involve potentially superior fertility management strategies.

How to Participate

1. Collect soil test reports from your paper or digital files.

2. Identify the reports you intend to submit. Reports must be: a) for soils used in commercial vegetable production, b) from an accredited lab and c) dated 2011, 2012, 2013, or 2014. Submit as many reports as you wish; more is better in this case.

3. Complete a Report Submission Form for every soil test report you intend to submit (by email, fax or mail only). If the same information is true for multiple reports, you may submit one complete form for the group but the reports it covers must be specified. ALL information farmers share is strictly confidential and voluntary; only project team members will have access to it.
 

4. Submit your report
  • online
  • by email (kleinhenz.1@osu.edu
  • by fax (330.263.3685)
  • by surface mail

OR, authorize your soil testing service to send reports directly to the VPSL. Contact Dr. Matt Kleinhenz (kleinhenz.1@osu.edu or ph. 330.263.3810) for details.

Thank you for your participation in this important work. The Vegetable Production Systems Laboratory is pleased to have the support of the Ohio Vegetable and Small Fruit Research and Development Program of the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association and of The OSU (OARDC, OSU Extension, and Department of Horticulture and Crop Science) in this project.