Soil and Crop Biology Testing - What It Means - Why Do It

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2024: $49,107.00
Projected End Date: 03/15/2026
Grant Recipient: Conservation Action Project
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Alan Sundermeier
Conservation Action Project


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

The Western Lake Erie Basin in Northwest Ohio needs to improve on
agricultural practices that reduce nutrient runoff. 
Nutrient runoff contributes to algae blooms in Lake Erie which
have caused water quality problems.  Many farmers who
produce corn, soybeans, and wheat, follow crop removal nutrient
rates which result in over application and nutrient runoff.
 Nitrogen application rates are also standardized and not
reflective of soil and crop needs for economical production.
 Standard chemical soil testing is only one measure of the
soil’s ability for crop production. By using biological testing,
farmers are able to better understand what fertility practices
are needed for profitable crop production while limiting nutrient
runoff.  Biological testing can be used to better understand
the soil’s capacity for nutrient cycling and availability to the
growing crop.  However, many farmers do not understand what
biological tests are now available and lack knowledge on how to
interpret test. Results from biological testing can be used by an
ag professional experienced in regenerative practices to
recommend a more sustainable cropping system.   This
grant will conduct soil health testing, soil micro-organism
testing, and crop tissue testing biology to analyze sustainable
cropping systems compared to standard chemical inputs.

Project objectives from proposal:

Project Objective

On-farm research will be conducted on a range of soil, crop
rotation, and sustainable management practices.

  1. Soil samples and crop tissue will be collected and
    analyzed.  Biological tests will be compared to conventional
    commonly used tests.
  2. Nutrient application adjustments will reflect recommendations
    from biological testing.  This will compare to standard
    nutrient rates normally applied.
  3. An economic study will be conducted on both systems.
  4. Develop interpretations and practical recommendations for
    using biological testing.
  5. Conduct outreach with field days, agronomy reports,
    factsheets, and conference presentations.

Success will be determined as more cover crops are planted and
less fertilizer is applied. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.