2017 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research 

Steven Culman, Ph.D.
The Ohio State University

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research awarded eight grants to the 2017 New Innovators in Food and Agriculture Research recipients. These awardees will receive a total of $4.8 million over five years. The New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research award is designed to provide the early investment needed to launch new faculty members into successful scientific careers in food and agriculture. Learn more about the FFAR New Innovators.

Research Project: Using Active Organic Matter Tests to Help Predict Crop Nutrient Needs

Steven Culman (left), Ph.D., collects soil samples for analysis.

Standard soil testing can provide a valuable framework for assessing fertility in some fields, but may fail to provide the full picture in others. Soil organic matter is often neglected in fertility recommendations, but provides a pivotal component of a healthy and functioning soil. This research project will investigate promising tests of the rapidly cycled and biologically-active pool of organic matter to see how these tests reflect nutrient cycling and nutrient supply to crops. The project will build on a statewide, on-farm effort to revise fertilizer recommendations by pairing these results with active organic matter tests. The goal will be to reveal the ability of these tests to inform nutrient management decisions. The project will also address procedural issues that currently limit adoption of soil health tests into commercial soil testing laboratories. This research will advance the development of soil health testing frameworks for active organic matter and strive to alleviate some key obstacles that limit widespread soil health testing by farmers.

About Steven Culman, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University

Steve Culman is an Assistant Professor of Soil Fertility at Ohio State University. He earned his Ph.D. in Agronomy from Cornell University and worked as a postdoctoral scholar at the Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University and at the University of California, Davis. His research and outreach program covers a range of topics, including nutrient management, soil health methodology, perennial grain cropping systems and cover crops. His overall research goal is to improve soil fertility and nutrient management through practices that enrich nutrient cycling, active organic matter pools and soil health. As the state specialist in soil fertility, he conducts extensive on-farm research with a wide variety of growers.

More information on his research can be found here: soilfertility.osu.edu