Climate-Smart Collaboration: Researchers Put Soil “FRST” With USDA Grant


    Soil testing is advancing through the collaborative efforts of three lead universities and funding from USDA’s Conservative Innovation Grants (CIG) program.

    The Fertilizer Recommendation Support Tool, or “FRST,” combines soil data from across the country to better serve farmers and consultants in their decision-making. The project aims to create transparency by removing ambiguity from soil testing interpretations often created by political or institutional biases that occur across state lines.

    Funding from the grant positioned three universities to lead the initiative: Louisiana State University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Arkansas.

    A Diverse Team of Collaborators

    More than 100 entities are getting their boots dirty to unite their soil data and develop the tool. The FRST team members span several organizations:

    • 41 land-grant universities
    • Two state universities
    • One private university
    • Three USDA divisions
    • Three nonprofit organizations
    • One state Department of Agriculture
    soil samples

    Samples remaining after testing are stored in case further testing is necessary. (Fred Miller, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture)

    Filling Data Gaps

    Nathan Slaton, associate vice president for agriculture and assistant director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture says “The tool will help save money and resources for producers and identify data gaps for crop consultants and scientists.”

    This community vs. competition approach will provide better consistency across state lines in phosphorus and potassium fertilizer recommendations, according to Slaton, the project’s principal investigator.

    More About Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)

    The FRST tool is among 31 new conservation innovation projects being funded by USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG). A total of 31 new projects will be funded by the USDA through CIG this year, with an investment of $40 million. The investment includes $25 million for On-Farm Trials and $15 million for CIG Classic.

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