Soil Fertility Extension Program
N deficient wheat, Havre, 1996. Image by R. Engel
The Soil Fertility/Nutrient Management program at MSU focuses on the processes that affect soil fertility and nutrient losses so that nutrients can be managed more sustainably. Soil testing can detect low nutrient levels that lead to possible crop nutrient deficiencies. In addition, soil testing allows for timely adjustments in fertilizer applications, reducing input costs. Understanding the economics of fertilizing, yield goals, and crop quality, along with soil fertility management can assist the producer in meeting profit goals.
The current research focus is on cropland soil acidification, improving nitrogen management in dryland cropping systems, and nitrogen fixation potential in pulses for environmental and economic sustainability. Research conducted at MSU, the Agricultural Research Centers, and throughout the region, are synthesized into fact sheets, modules, and presentations geared toward extension agents, crop advisers, farmers, ranchers, and/or homeowners.
If you have any questions about soil nutrients, the Soil Fertility Extension program or materials contained in this web site, contact Dr. Clain Jones. If you think plant growth issues may be related to pesticide (e.g., herbicide residual in compost), please contact Noelle Orloff (994-6297) or Dr. Tim Seipel (994-4783) for assistance.
- Clain shares considerations for fertilizing winter wheat (MSU press release - August 2022)
- Drought resources:
- MSU and regional research on cover crops in semi-arid dryland systems has been summarized in 4 Extension publications:
- Watch our video on Acidification of Cropland Soil: Impact, Causes, and Solutions. Share the link with especially small grain producers. Soil Acidification of MT Croplands gives an overview of the video.
- Our soil acidification website has more information about this emerging issue. Clain discusses causes and management
options in an interview with Russell Nemetz from Northern Ag Network and with Rachel Cramer from Yellowstone Public Radio (go to around minute 10 of the program), plus 3 Fertilizer eFacts on soil acidification:
- This MSU press release presents the issue of soil acidification and the corresponding AgAlert provides information on what to look for in fields.
- How do soil test kits compare to laboratory test results? A press release explains the differences (pdf version). Also available as a Soil Scoop
- If you are soil sampling, look at our soil scoops, Soil Testing: Getting a Good Sample and Soil Testing: Once You Have the Sample on The Soil Scoop website. These help anyone involved with soil sampling get the most value from their soil test.
- The Crops & Soils 2020 article Cover Crop Management in Semi-arid Regions: Effect on Soil and Cash Crop (pdf) presents some of our long-term study results on covers. The article is open access and available for CCA CEUs.
- Soil acidification in the semiarid regions of North America's Great Plains. Our article in the March/April 2019 Crops & Soils is open-access to all readers and available for 0.5 CEU in Nutrient Management for
CCAs. Contact us for pdf version.
N fixation. Dr Jones is investigating the effects of inoculant, starter fertilizer and variety on pea and lentil N fixation as part of a USDA Pulse Crop Health Initiative grant.