OSU calculator helps organic farmers use fertilizer efficiently

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Nick Andrews holds a handful of compost, part of his organic fertilizer research. Photo by Tiffany Woods

Organic farmers use cover crops, fertilizers and compost to add nutrients to their soil. But they don't always know if they're getting the most bang for their buck.

Now they do. An online tool from the OSU Extension Service does the math so that organic farmers can figure that out more precisely. It's called the Organic Fertilizer and Cover Crop Calculator.

Over 2,400 people have registered to use the free, spreadsheet-based resource, more than 450 of whom are from Oregon. Users hail from at least 60 countries and manage more than 160,000 acres. If they save or earn $50 per acre through reduced fertilizer costs or increased quality and yields on just a quarter of those 160,000 acres, that would mean an extra $2 million in their pockets each year.

Educators in Oregon, Washington, North Carolina and other states use the calculator to teach students nutrient management concepts, while conservationists in Oregon and California have used it to develop nutrient management programs under the Organic Environmental Quality Incentives Program. In addition, OSU Extension has published a 23-page guide explaining the science behind the calculator. It has been downloaded over 3,000 times (approximately 200 times per month) and is one of the most popular nutrient management publications in the OSU Extension catalog.

Sources: Nick Andrews, Extension Organic Agriculture program; Dan Sullivan, OSU Crop and Soil Science

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