COLUMBUS, Ohio—The answers to growing better crops are under your feet if you look.
So says Steve Culman, soil fertility specialist at The Ohio State University, who is helping lead an upcoming workshop on how to test your soil.
“Soil testing provides a window into the soil, revealing if a plant is likely to see the nutrients it needs to grow and thrive,” said Culman, based at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
The workshop, called “Digging Into Soil Health: What Tests Can Tell Us About Our Soil,” will be Feb. 14 in Dayton. It’s part of the annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), which runs from Feb. 14–16.
Now celebrating its 40th year, the OEFFA conference is Ohio’s largest conference on sustainable food and farming. Organizers expect about 1,200 attendees.
Leading the soil health workshop will be Culman and other members of CFAES’ Soil Balancing Research Team, who plan to share details on testing the soil and on ways to improve the soil’s health. They’re inviting participants to bring soil test results with them to get help in interpreting the numbers.
Culman, who is a faculty member in CFAES’ School of Environment and Natural Resources, calls soil testing the “foundation of a sound nutrient management plan.”
“Many commercial growers routinely test their soils, but it’s less common for smaller-scale hobby farmers and gardeners,” Culman said. “Soil testing is an inexpensive first step to helping you meet your production goals.”
In all, the conference will have nearly 80 workshops, plus locally sourced meals and special events. Nine of the workshops will feature speakers from CFAES, with topics including keeping honey bees healthy, creating pollinator habitat on farms, preventing pollen drift contamination of organic crops, and keeping the spotted wing drosophila pest off of fruit crops. Some of the speakers from CFAES are members of its Organic Food and Farming Education and Research Program.
The soil health workshop runs from 1–4:30 p.m. at the Dayton Convention Center, 22 E. 5th St., Dayton, which is also the location of the rest of the conference.
Register for workshop, conference
Registration for the soil health workshop is free and open to the public and is separate from registration for the conference. Registering in advance is requested. To register, go to go.osu.edu/OEFFASoilHealth2019 or call 614-947-1606. Seats are filling up fast, OEFFA Communications Coordinator Lauren Ketcham said.
Registration for the OEFFA conference has varying registration fees, from a one-day OEFFA member rate of $110 to a full conference nonmember rate of $230. Discount rates for children and students are also being offered. Details are available at oeffa.org/conference2019. While online registration for the conference has ended, participants can still register at the door.