Ohio State Research Team Working on New Soil Health Tests


Predicting the capacity of soil to supply nitrogen is an ongoing challenge in organic farming. Organic farmers rely on the breakdown of organic matter through a microbially-driven process for crop nutrition instead of the application of synthetic fertilizers. One of the most frequent requests of organic farmers is to have access to better information about what is happening in their soil.

OFRF recently provided a grant of $14,993 to Steve Culman, Tunsisa Harisso, and Anthony Fulford at Ohio State University for their project, Evaluating Soil Protein as a New Soil Health Indicator. The team is working to develop a simple and affordable soil test that can predict organic nutrient release and help decrease environmental risks and adoption barriers. The soil health measurements they are researching have the ability to predict crop nutrient availability and can lead to best nutrient management practices to improve the productivity of organic farmers.

Working with organic farmers in the region, the team plans to develop a robust soil health test that includes soil protein as an additional measure of soil health, along with active carbon and mineralizable carbon. Soil protein is a key part of the soil, with important impacts on the stabilization and decomposition of nutrients in the soil. The team will establish the range of soil protein across a diverse set of organic farms in the Midwest and determine how management practices influence soil protein values. In addition, they will evaluate the relationship among the three soil health measures (soil protein, mineralizable carbon, and active carbon) and evaluate how each of these tests relate to crop productivity. Organic farmers participating in the project will have the opportunity to provide input and ideas in various ways, including initial and final management questionnaires and personal interaction at farmer-focused workshops and meetings.

Read more about the project here.

Read more about soil health and nutrient management in OFRF’s new Soil Health and Organic Farming educational guides available for download here.