Tuesday, May 21, 2024

FRST Fertilizer Recommendation Support Tool Launches Nationwide to Digitize Crop Nutrient Management

⋅ BY V. TODD MILLER ⋅

A national group of scientists — including two from the LSU AgCenter — has released the Fertilizer Recommendation Support Tool, or FRST, a decision aid providing an unbiased, science-based interpretation of soil test phosphorus and potassium values for crop fertilization.

The FRST project is a collaboration of more than 100 soil science and agronomic professionals representing nearly 50 universities, four divisions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, several nonprofit organizations and one private sector partner. This diverse partnership underscores the collective effort and expertise invested in the development of FRST.

The LSU AgCenter is represented on the project by Jim Wang and Muhammad Rasel Parvej. Wang and Parvej expressed excitement about the launch of the decision support tool. FRST was developed in response to the pressing need to harmonize soil testing across state boundaries, improving the evaluation of soil test correlation.

The new web-based tool, available at soiltestfrst.org, represents a significant advancement in soil testing for phosphorus and potassium and nutrient management. It uses data from across the U.S. with the potential to save farmers millions of dollars annually while reducing excess nutrient losses to the environment.

Deanna Osmond, soil science researcher at North Carolina State University, is one of the group’s leaders.

“Until now, soil fertility faculty in each state worked independently,” Osmond said. “But for farmers who work across state lines, it’s difficult to compare or assimilate multistate guidelines. Our goal is to improve the accuracy of nutrient recommendations through independent, scientifically developed nutrient management best practices that farmers can believe in and adopt.”

Currently, the FRST provides critical phosphorus and potassium soil test values, indicating where there is no expected yield increase from phosphorus or potassium fertilizer application. 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.

The current version, FRST v1.0, includes data from nearly 2,500 phosphorus and potassium trials for 21 major agricultural crops, with the majority as corn and soybean. The FRST includes a map of the U.S. showing the location of phosphorus and potassium trials represented in the database, aiding in identifying where additional research data is needed.

Key features of the FRST include:

— Data driven: FRST uses 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.

Nathan Slaton, soil science researcher at the University of Arkansas and a leader on the project, noted that the FRST project has accomplished two important objectives to advance phosphorus and potassium management for crop production.

“The first was developing a national database to archive soil test correlation and calibration research ensuring that research information that supports crop fertilization recommendations is not lost as scientists retire,” Slaton said.

“The second is providing a tool that anyone can use to review the research results relevant to their crop, soils and geographic area to check their soil-test-based fertilizer recommendations.”

Hosted in a neutral space with common access, FRST fosters collaboration and innovation in soil fertility research, paving the way for future advancements in nutrient management.

“The design of FRST has always been focused on the end user being able to easily use the tool and understand the results,” said Greg Buol, of North Carolina State University, who has provided database and programming support.

Parvej and Wang said FRST will not only benefit farmers by improving farm economics and conservation practices but also contribute to global sustainability.

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

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


Todd Miller is an assistant communications specialist at LSU AgCenter and may be reached at VTMiller@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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