Welcome to the Soil Fertility Lab's website. Our work focuses on determining timely and efficient use of fertilizers, developing farmer-friendly soil health tests, and understanding how long-term management strategies can build organic matter and soil productivity. We engage and work collaboratively with farmers, crop consultants, and educators on a wide variety of soil fertility and management issues.


  1. Culman Lab publishes manuscript on rapid soil health measure for protein

    May 30, 2018

    Increased interest in practical, routine evaluation of soil health has created a need for rapid and inexpensive indicators that reflect soil nitrogen (N) status. We have been working on a soil protein measurement as an indicator of a functionally relevant and sensitive pool of organic N that can be rapidly quantified. The procedure is based on a method that was historically used to measure “glomalin,” a pool putatively of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal origin. We have validated that the procedure extracts proteins from a wide range of sources and propose that the pool of proteins extracted by this method can be viewed more broadly as a soil health indicator that reflects the primary pool of organically bound N in soil and thus as potentially available organic N. Included with our publication is our laboratory protocol. To access the full article, click here.

  2. Soil Fertility Lab presents research at CFAES annual research conference

    May 21, 2018

    The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences hosted their annual research conference on April 27th. The conference featured a morning of presentations and panel discussions focused on the theme: “Meeting the Water Quality Challenge: Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Science to Improve Water Quality in Ohio”. The full list of presentations, available for viewing, can be found here. Included in the conference is a poster session featuring research conducted by graduate students (separated into Master's and PhD categories), post-doctoral researchers, and research assistants and associates (Research Staff). Posters were evaluated by three reviewers and results tallied for the poster competition awarding monetary prizes to the top three presenters in each category.

    The Soil Fertility Lab presented three posters:

    Jordon Wade (PhD category): Phosphorus restriction improves soil health and functioning across three long-term sites in Ohio

    Stuti Sharma (2nd place in the Research Staff category): History of Corn, Soybean and Alfalfa Yield Responses to Micronutrient Fertilization in Ohio

    Nicole Hoekstra (3rd place in the Research Staff category): Soil Health and Nutrient Management for Optimizing Quality and Yield of Processing Tomatoes 

    The full list of awardees can be found here.

  3. Corn, Soybean, and Alfalfa Yield Responses to Micronutrient Fertilization in Ohio

    May 17, 2018

    Authors: Stuti Sharma, Steve Culman, Anthony Fulford, Laura Lindsey, Douglas Alt, and Grace Looker

    Micronutrients play important roles in plant growth and development, as such, farmers have long sought after information regarding the efficacy of micronutrient fertilization to increase crop yields. To answer this, we compiled 40 years of data from the Ohio State University consisting of micronutrient fertilizer trials in three crops: corn, soybean, and alfalfa. The results was a database with a total of 194 trials, randomized and replicated, across 17 Ohio counties. From these studies, it was found that micronutrient fertilization rarely produced a significant yield response. Of the micronutrients (boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc, and nickel), manganese or a blend of manganese with other micronutrients increased soybean yield (9 out of 144 trials), boron had no effect on corn grain yield (8 out of 9 trials), and micronutrient fertilization affected alfalfa yields in 17 trials.    

    These results are not uncommon as there is a large degree of uncertainty concerning micronutrient fertilization needs of crops as soil test critical levels are difficult to develop. Therefore, seeing a yield response to micronutrient fertilization is much more common in situations of known or suspected deficiencies. If you decide to apply micronutrient fertilizers, we suggest leaving an unfertilized strip as a check or control measure. You can then compare your fertilized versus unfertilized yields to determine if the fertilization was effective in increasing yield and whether it provided an economic benefit.

    The results of our study can be found on ohioline here