Northern New York Agricultural Development Program Press Releases

June 7, 2006

Contacts: Principal Investigator: Dr. Harold van Es, Cornell University, 607-255-5629
NNYADP Co-Chairs: Jon Greenwood, 315-386-3231; Joe Giroux, 518-563-7523

Measuring Soil Health on NNY Farms

Lower crop productivity arising from poor soil health is a problem for Northern New York farmers, say a team of North Country farmers, Cornell University faculty and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators. The team is working with 20 Northern New York farmers to develop methods for assessing the quality of local soils and to develop practical and sustainable soil management practice protocols that will enhance crop yield and farm profitability while supporting good environmental stewardship. This project was selected for grant funding by the farmer-driven advisory committee of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program.

�Soil quality is affected by farm management practices. Good management allows the soil to come to its full potential. A healthy soil will be balanced for physical, chemical and biological functions. What we need are meaningful indicators � beyond the traditional soil test � to help farmers know how to improve their soil�s health,� says team leader and Cornell Crop and Soil Sciences Professor Harold van Es.

Last year, the research team analyzed 330 soil samples from controlled research plots at the W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy and the Cornell E.V. Baker Research Farm in Willsboro. Some of the samples represent 30-plus years of plowed soil vs. long-term no-till soil. Another 60 samples from NNY farm fields were analyzed at Cornell�s testing laboratories for texture, density, porosity, aggregation, water holding capacity, penetration resistance, and active carbon levels.

Field trials have been established in 2006 at the Chazy and Willsboro research farms and at 18 farms across the region. Soil samples will be evaluated to determine the most suitable soil improvement practices for each participating farm. The factors influencing soil health include compaction, erosion, intensive tilling, and lack of soil building practices such as cover cropping and organic matter additions.

This year the research team is also analyzing biological (mineralization and decomposition rates, root disease potential) and chemical (nutrient levels, pH) indicators of soil health. The researchers are evaluating soils on traditional and organic farms and hope to expand the focus to include soils on horticultural production sites. A 2003 soil quality survey showed soil degradation to be a common problem on vegetable farms in New York State.

�The scientific assessment of soil health criteria and soil management practices built from this Northern New York Agricultural Development Program project will provide North Country farmers with new knowledge and tools for ensuring the economic viability and long-term environmental health of their farms,� van Es says.

Measuring Soil Health: Evaluations Underway on 20 NNY Farms 2 of 2
Contacts: Dr. Harold van Es, 607-255-5629; Jon Greenwood, 315-386-3231;
Joe Giroux, 518-563-7523

For more information on soil health and conservation research in Northern New York, go online to the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at www.nnyagdev.org. The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is a farmer-driven research and education program specific to New York state�s six northernmost counties (Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, Essex). The Program Co-Chairs are Jon Greenwood, Canton, 315-386-3231, and Joe Giroux, Plattsburgh, 518-563-7523. R. David Smith at Cornell University, 607-255-7286, is the program coordinator. # # #

Farms/farmers participating in 2006 field trials:
� Essex County: Cornell E.V. Baker Research Farm: Michael Davis, 518-963-7492;
Hugh Gunnison, Sam Hendren, Eric Leerkes, Sandy Lewis, Chris Spaulding
� Clinton County: W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute: Michael Davis, 518-963-7492
� Franklin County: John Beane, Ralph Child, Dick Eakins, Dennis Egan, Don Ellsworth,
Doug Malette, Fred Tuttle
� Jefferson County: Don Nohle
� Lewis County: Bernhard Gohlert, Marc Laribee
� St. Lawrence County: Dan Chambers, David Fisher, William White

Cornell University team members:
� Harold M. van Es, Crop and Soil Sciences Professor, 607-255-5629
� Omololu John Idowu, Geneva Plant Pathology Technician IV
� Robert Schindelbeck, Crop and Soil Sciences Research Support Specialist II
� George S. Abawi, Geneva Plant Pathology Professor
� David W. Wolfe, Horticulture Professor
� Anu Rangarajan, Cornell Small Farm Program

Cornell Cooperative Extension team members:
� Essex County: Anita Deming, 518-962-4810
� Clinton County: Julie Viveiros, 518-561-7450
� Franklin County: Carl Tillinghast and Mathew Cooper, 518-483-7403
� Jefferson County: Michael Hunter, 315-788-8450
� Lewis County: Jennifer Beckman, 315-376-5270
� St. Lawrence County: Peter Barney, 315-379-9192