Soil Health Assessment, Management, and Training: Vegetable Production Systems

2003 Annual Report for LNE03-175

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $209,841.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
George Abawi
Cornell University, NYSAES

Soil Health Assessment, Management, and Training: Vegetable Production Systems


This project was initiated by our Soil Health Work Team (consisting of vegetable growers, cooperative extension staff and multidisciplinary faculty) in order to address he progressive deterioration of vegetable soils and to develop appropriate solutions. During the project, the soil health status of 50 – 100 vegetable farms throughout the production areas in New York will be determined. Project impact on the awareness and knowledge of soil health issues and production practices of 100 – 250 growers will be monitored through mailed surveys, interviews and participatory activities. Demonstration trials on various soil management practices will be conducted in 5 commercial production regions and also on established long-term soil health sites. The established trials (including modification in crop rotations, cover crops, soil amendments, tillage systems, pest control, transition to organic production and others) will be intensively monitored for biological, chemical and physical soil quality factors as well as impact on farm profitability. The project will also develop and field-test a soil health assessment protocol; a demonstration kit for educators, a website; and a package of outreach materials for soil health assessment and management.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  • Fifty growers will implement two or more promoted management practices to improve soil quality and health on their farms. The latter may include: using new soil health tests to determine appropriate management practices; incorporating a new main and/or cover crop into their rotation scheme, changing tillage practices employed, using a new compost or other soil amendments, and adopting sustainable pest management practices, including IPM strategies.A “soil health assessment protocol” will be developed and field-tested to the stage where it is ready to be institutionalized (i.e., become a permanent feature of fee services) offered by Cornell University and/or commercial soil testing laboratories.


  • Ten large demonstration trials were initiated in fields of collaborating growers that will be carried out for 3 growing cycles or longer. Each trial is comparing 2 or more soil and/or crop management practices. Also, 6 replicated long-term research sites of the NYS Agric. Exp. Stations have also been characterized and used as additional soil health sites (2 of these newly initiated, 4 on-going).Baseline soil physical, chemical and biological data have been collected at most sites including: Aggregate stability using a newly developed rain simulation protocol, in-field determination of water infiltration and soil compaction, root disease suppressive capacity, number and diversity of plant-parasitic and free-living nematodes, potential mineralizable nitrogen, decomposition rate, carbon and nitrogen in particulate organic matter, root depth, and the standard CU soil laboratory test. Also, stand establishment, pest and weed pressure and final marketable yield and quality were assessed on as many sites as possible. Polled data analysis has begun and will be used to validate a protocol for soil health assessment.

    We established a soil health website (, with a link and collaboration with the Worldwide Soil Health Information Portal at Cornell.

    Each regional sub-team hosted field days and/or visits to demonstration sites in the 5 project work regions, with over 200 growers, agribusiness people and extension staff attending. The annual meeting of our team was held during the 2003 NYS Vegetable Conference in Syracuse about our project for academic audiences, a poster at the Amer. Soc. of Agron. national conference, and in-service training for educators in NY and elsewhere (>300 in attendance).

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Completed the analysis and disseminated to growers and extension staff the summary of the initial soil health survey. A total of 244 completed questionnaires, out of 1000 mailed, were received from vegetable growers in 36 counties.


John Johnson
Johnson Farms
915 S. Main St.
Athens, PA 18810
Office Phone: 5705369879
Omololu (John) Idowu
Cornell University
1050 Bradfield Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072551706
Klaas and Mary Howell Martens
Martens Farm
1443 Ridge Rd.
Penn Yan, NY 14527
Office Phone: 3155369879
Phil Schmitt

2494 Roanoke Ave.
Riverhead, NY 11901
Office Phone: 6313691056
Lynn Fish

Fish Farms
4494 Mt. Payne Road
Shortsville, NY 14548
Office Phone: 7162894957
Jean-Paul Courtens

Roxbury Farms
2501 Route 9H
Kinderhook, NY 12106
Donn Branton

Branton Farms
8618 Buckley Rd.
LeRoy, NY 14482
Office Phone: 7163441658
Ted Blomgren
Ext. Specialist
90 State St., Suite 600
Albany, NY 12207
Office Phone: 5184622553
Elizabeth Henderson
Peace Work Farms
2218 Welchur Road
Newark, NY 19513
Office Phone: 3153319029
Curt Petzoldt
Geneva, NY 14456
Office Phone: 3157872206
Dale Moyer
Sr. Ext. educator
246 Giffling Ave.
Riverhead, NY 11901-3086
Office Phone: 6317277850
David Wolfe
Cornell University
Dept. of Horticulture, CU
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072557888
Harold van Es
Cornell University
Dept. of Crop & Soil Science
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072555629
Janice Thies
Assoc. Prof.
Cornell University
Dept. of Crop & Soil Sci.
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072555099
Molly Shaw
Ext. specialist
Owego, NY 13827
Office Phone: 6076874020
Beth Gugino
Cornell University
Geneva, NY 14456
Office Phone: 3157872412
Tom Giles
Maple Valley Farms
1372 Breeseport-N Chumung Road
Lowman, NY 14861
Office Phone: 6074269170
Carol MacNeil
Sr. Extension Specialist
480 N. Main St.
Canandaigua, NY 14424
Office Phone: 5853943977