Steve Culman grew up in the ‘burbs of Cincinnati. A city kid who occasionally helped out on farms, Culman became drawn to soil health and fertility through food. The more he paid attention to the food he ate and the complexities of growing it, the more he wanted to help farmers make profitable and sustainable decisions to enhance our food supply.
Today, his career as an assistant professor and state specialist in soil fertility at The Ohio State University allows him to do just that. He spends part of his time conducting research and part of his time sharing what he’s learned with farmers and future growers in fields and classrooms. While it’s his goal to make farmers as profitable as possible, that doesn’t necessarily mean just increasing yields.
“Profitability isn’t always about growing more with the shiniest piece of equipment or newest technology. Sometimes, it’s about paying attention to the building blocks that make up a good farm management plan,” explained Culman. “Soil health is a great example. If you have healthy soil with good structure and good fertility, the land can cycle its own nutrients. This has critical long-term impacts on yields and profitability.”
His latest research project involves updating the Tri-State Fertility Guide, which provides farmers with recommendations for applying nutrients to grow healthy, high-yielding crops. Thanks to the support of the Ohio soybean checkoff, Culman and his team conducted 300 on-farm strip fertility trials to share the most up-to-date fertility rates with farmers. While their findings closely align with recommendations provided in the original guide, they are adjusting policies to work better for farmers with short-term land leases.
“The Ohio Soybean Council has been fundamental in supporting our work. They helped connect us with farm sites for our trials because they understand the challenges Ohio farmers face in the fields and want to be proactive in finding solutions. The Tri-State Guide updates simply would not have happened without support from the soybean checkoff,” said Culman. “It’s great to have a strong ally when it comes to giving farmers more tools to grow food efficiently and sustainably.”