NCERA103: Specialized Soil Amendments and Products, Growth Stimulants and Soil Fertility Management Programs

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

NCERA103: Specialized Soil Amendments and Products, Growth Stimulants and Soil Fertility Management Programs

Duration: 10/01/2017 to 09/30/2022

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

The use of fertilizer and soil amendments is critical to profitable production of agronomic and horticultural crops in the US. There is a large research base available evaluating the use of traditional fertilizers and soil amendments documenting the economic and environmental impacts of their use. However, non-conventional products for agriculture, including some soil amendments, growth stimulants, inhibitors, or soil fertility management programs are often promoted and sold to stakeholders (particularly farmers and agricultural retailers) on the premise of replacing or extending the efficacy of standard crop production inputs. Extensive and un-biased research supporting the use of many products is not available. For stakeholders to make informed decisions regarding use of these products or programs, they must have access to information that provides fair and scientifically valid evaluation of these products or programs. Without such information, stakeholders may invest in products or programs which are of little or no value to them, or may be inappropriate for their climate, soils, or cropping system, may reduce crop production, or may have detrimental environmental impact through the product not performing as advertised.

Many of the products or programs evaluated through this committee are expensive to use considering their cost and whether there is a potential reduction in productivity. Products are often marketed under different names in different states without knowledge to the end consumer. The committee has functioned as a repository for the collection and dissemination of information through an online searchable database about the active ingredients for products or programs, information on manufacturers and distributors, and research information pertinent to the North central region. Pooling research data across multiple states is needed as research on these products is generally poorly funded by the companies themselves, only a limited number of experiments, if any, are conducted with each product, and data presented to stakeholders by a company is generally limited to instances where a positive yield response has occurred. In some states, specialized agricultural products must be registered and/or licensed for sale. Research information on products or programs provided by the committee or individual committee members has been used by state regulatory officials in determining if a product or program has value and should be registered or licensed. In addition, more products are being marketed as enhanced efficiency products for traditional commercial fertilizer sources to allow for their product to be subsidized by government programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through the NRCS. Research information generated from this committee is being utilized when considering registration of products and requests to include products as enhanced efficiency products in government programs in order to reduce the use of non-traditional products that have benign or detrimental effects and increase the use of the beneficial non-traditional products.


  1. Collect information about new non-traditional fertilizers, biostimulants, soil amendments, inhibitors and other similar products and soil fertility and crop management programs and make this information available to committee members.
  2. Provide unbiased evaluations, as resources permit, of non-traditional fertilizers, biostimulants, inhibitors soil amendments, and other similar products and soil fertility and crop management programs, and publish results of those evaluations as North Central Regional Research Bulletins.
  3. Disseminate information about non-traditional fertilizers, biostimulants, soil amendments, inhibitors and other similar products and soil fertility and crop management programs, and research-based evaluations of those, to a variety of clientele, including Extension staff, crop producers, fertilizer retailers, crop consultants, farm managers, regulatory agencies, and agricultural lenders. Information will be available through a variety of means: a committee web site, maintenance of an on-going publication series, a web-based Compendium of Research Reports, as well as the NIMSS website.

Procedures and Activities

Committee members will meet once a year to review and plan activities for the upcoming year, share information on new or marketed non-traditional fertilizers, biostimulants, soil amendments, inhibitors and other similar products and soil fertility and crop management programs, discuss publications in development or needs for new or revisions of old publications, and plan educational efforts. Specific regional projects will not be developed due to the regionality of product sales. The purpose of the committee will be to discuss research efforts and outline education needs for stakeholders related to specific classes of products currently being marketed in agriculture.

 The committee will maintain an electronic compendium of products and their performance in research studies. The compendium originally existed in an original published form with two supplements, and was converted to a searchable electronic form in 2005. This compendium contains information about the performance of non-traditional fertilizers, biostimulants, soil amendments, and other similar products and soil fertility and crop management programs which meet committee criteria for publication in the compendium. Published works including peer reviewed materials and published research reports will be solicited at the meeting each year and with the permission of the author will be added to the compendium. Yearly updates will provide current information for stakeholders in the north central region.

The committee members will be responsible for publicizing the compendium website to stakeholders within their individual states. The link to the website is:

The committee has a history of summarizing research results on specific products or programs into concise North Central Regional Research Bulletins. This effort will continue as information on emerging products or programs develops. Information within these bulletins will also be included for nutrient inhibitors and extended release fertilizer products. The committee will also discuss needed revisions to existing publications to reflect current research since the last revision.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Continued review and summary of new products or soil fertility programs and their performance. Comments: Information on active ingredients and/or modes of action of products will be reviewed, with on-going updating of the compendium of non-traditional products as an online searchable database. The current compendium website received 4200 visits in from 2012-2016 compared to 2300 in 2005, the year the site went live. The site also contains links to existing publications. Research on products also will be conducted on a state by state basis and the data will be discussed at the annual meeting. This data will be solicited for use in the development of educational material.
  • Exchange information with state agencies for use in the approval of proucts for sale and inclusion in cost share programs Comments: The committee members routinely are in contact with state agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) who are responsible for the development of cost share programs for farmers. This contact in important in identifying to be included for cost share that have a demonstrated efficacy based on their intended mode of action to ensure the judicious use of tax payer dollars.
  • Yearly update of the compendium of non-traditional products Comments: Information generated by the committee, including the compendium, is used by farmers, crop consultants and retailers to decide on product use. Many specialized products or non-traditional soil fertility programs cost between $8 and $30/acre/yr. A decision to not use a non-traditional product, based on research information provided by the committee, for a typical farm operation in the North Central region of 1000 acres could thus save an individual producer $8,000 to $30,000/yr just in product cost. If the non-traditional product has detrimental effects or is substituted for an input that is beneficial then the economic cost to the producer may be several fold greater.
  • Preparation or revision and publication of one North Central Regional Research Bulletin, on average, per year. Comments: An example of a new publication planned for upcoming release is “Use of P fertilizer Extenders”. Revisions will be made to “Effectiveness of gypsum in the north central region” and “Soil cation ratios for crop production”. These publications are made available on the internet and will be distributed to stakeholders in the North central region. The publications represent an in-depth, concise summary of current research.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

Unbiased, statistically-valid, and replicated research results evaluating the performance of new products or programs will be added to the compendium annually. Studies will be added that contain at least two site-years of information.

Committee members will promote the use of the compendium website through their extension our outreach programs within their given state.

The addition of information and research data related to nutrient inhibitors and coated fertilizer products to the compendium and release as regional publications.

Updated information resources will be made available on the committee website for use by a wide range of clientele: producers, crop consultants, Extension educators, Natural Resources Conservation Service staff, regulatory agencies, and others who advise crop producers.

Information compiled and disseminated by the committee will be used in a wide range of settings, including Extension workshops, supplemental websites, and regulatory decisions each year.


A chair and secretary will be elected from committee membership for two-year terms. The secretary shall replace the chair at the end of their 2-year term, unless they decline. All officers are to be elected for at least two-year terms to provide continuity. Administrative guidance will be provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a NIFA Representative.

Current Membership

Jim Camberato, IN; Kurt Steinke, MI; Edwin Ritchie, KY; Emerson Nafziger, IL; Daniel Kaiser, MN; Matthew Ruark, WI; David Franzen, ND; Peter Scharf, MO; Dorivar Ruiz-Diaz, KS; John Sawyer, IA; Richard Ferguson, NE. Edwin Lentz, OH.

Literature Cited

Franzen. D. 2011. Nitrogen Extenders and Additives for Field Crops. Ext Publ. SF-1581. North Dakota State Univ. Ext., Fargo. [online] (verified 29 Nov. 2016).

Franzen, D. G. Rehm, and J. Gerwing. 2006. Effectiveness of gypsum in the North-central region of the U.S. Ext Publ. SF-1321. North Dakota State Univ. Ext., Fargo. [online] (verified 29 Nov. 2016).

Rehm, G. 1994 Soil Cation Ratios for Crop Production. North Central Regional Ext. Publ. 533. Univ. of MN Ext., St Paul. [online] (verified 29 Nov. 2016).


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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