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Gypsum the focus of 2013 symposium

The third annual Midwest Soil Improvement Symposium will be held in conjunction with The Ohio State University’s Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference on Thursday March 7, 2013 at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. The one-day symposium will feature leading experts on the use of gypsum to improve soil structure, reduce runoff and add important nutrients to the soil.

Gypsum, used as a soil amendment to supply soluble calcium and sulfate sulfur, helps soils absorb more water during rainfall, according to USDA ARS research studies.  That means more water goes into the soil reserves to be tapped by crops when rains are scarce later in the season.

“The key to getting through drought is to capture all the water you can when you do get rain,” says Allen Torbert, research leader at the USDA-ARS National Soil Dynamics Lab at Auburn, AL.  “Better soil structure allows all the positive benefits of soil-water relations to occur and gypsum helps to create and support good soil structure properties.”

In addition to improving moisture utilization, gypsum helps to keep phosphorus and other nutrients from leaving farm fields. “Using gypsum as a soil amendment is the most economical way to cut the non-point runoff-pollution of phosphorus,” says retired soil scientist Darrell Norton who conducted decades of gypsum research while at the USDA-ARS National Soil Erosion Laboratory at Purdue University.

A testament to its positive contribution to soil and water quality, gypsum application to agricultural fields was recently added to Ohio’s conservation practice standards issued by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), notes Warren Dick, professor, Environmental and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University (OSU), Wooster, OH.

Dick is the lead researcher for a number of research projects studying gypsum’s impact on soil and water quality, as well as crop productivity. Gypsum has been shown to boost corn yield by as much as eight percent1 and alfalfa yield by as much as 18 percent2 in OSU research.

Dick, Torbert and Norton, along with several other gypsum researchers, industry experts and growers and consultants experienced using gypsum, will be featured speakers at the symposium and Dr. David R. Montgomery, professor of geomorphology in the Department of Earth & Space Sciences at the University of Washington, and award-winning author of “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations,” will present the keynote.

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