New online database boosts fertilizer knowledge sharing

When growing crops, fertilizer is a critical component. Too often, however, knowing what type of fertilizer to use, how much to apply, where, and when for peak crop production can be a major challenge for growers. 

Soil scientists and agronomists at The Ohio State University are part of a national team of over 100 agricultural professionals that has launched a new tool to pave the way for future advancements in crop nutrient management. The team represents nearly 50 universities, USDA, not-for-profit organizations, and one private sector partner. 

Manbir Rakkar, assistant professor of soil fertility and nutrient management in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, Environmental, and Environmental Sciences, is part of the team and is excited about the new online national soil fertility database and decision support tool, called the Fertilizer Recommendation Support Tool (FRST). 

“FRST provides unbiased, science-based interpretation of soil test phosphorus and potassium values for crop fertilization from across the U.S. It indicates where there is no expected yield increase from fertilizer application,” Rakkar said. “Quickly changing climate conditions only makes efficient fertilizer management more complicated. This new tool can potentially save farmers and land managers millions of dollars annually while reducing excess nutrient losses to the environment.”
Leonardo Deiss, a visiting assistant professor in Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) and a member of the project team who developed the tool, said “We are extremely excited about the launch of this digital decision support tool. FRST was developed in response to the pressing need to harmonize soil testing across state boundaries. It represents an improvement in our ability to evaluate soil test correlation.”

In addition to Rakkar and Deiss, other team members from Ohio State include Gregory LaBarge, OSU Extension field specialist, agronomic systems, and Jim Ippolito, the Rattan Lal Endowed Professor of Soil Health and Soil Fertility. Former Ohio State soil fertility specialist, Steve Culman, made significant contributions to the FRST with Ohio-based soil data.

The new web-based tool includes historical and current research data, including 2,500 phosphorus and potassium trials for 21 major agricultural crops, with the majority being corn and soybean. It includes published and unpublished trial data from 40 states and Puerto Rico. In the next phase, the FRST will provide research-based phosphorus or potassium rate response information to assist farmers in selecting the minimum fertilizer rate expected to produce maximal crop yield. 

Key features of FRST include:

• Data-driven: FRST utilizes a dynamic database of soil test correlation data that is constantly updated to improve testing confidence.

• Crop specific: The database currently covers 21 major commodity crops.

• Geographically diverse: Includes published and unpublished trial data from 40 states and Puerto Rico.

• Unbiased: Blended data removes political and institutional bias in soil test interpretation.

• Scientifically sound: Data represents a minimum dataset that provides reliable outcomes.

For more information about FRST and how it can transform nutrient management on your farm or in your organization, visit and click on “Tool.”

Funding for the FRST project has been provided by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, including the Conservation Innovation Grants; the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service; the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture; and corporate partner OCP North America.

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