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Crowd Funding Paid For Ag Research Project
South Carolina farmer Carl Coleman and his friend, Buz Kloot, a Research Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina (USC), used a crowd-funding proposal at www.experiment.com to raise money for a research project they titled “How much fertilizer do we really need?”
  “No ag-related grant-funding organization in their right mind would fund a crazy scheme like ours, so we came up with this approach for the tech-savvy marketplace,” Kloot says. Their first attempt in 2014 raised just over $5,000 for tests conducted on Coleman’s farm.
  “Frankly I was shocked that we raised $5,000, but many of the supporters were farmers who really wanted an answer to our question,” Kloot says. “They’re the drivers of the soil health revolution. I’m really doubtful that we could find any of this funding through conventional channels.”
  They publicized the project through emails to their personal contacts and social media. They received donations from across the country.
  For the second request in 2017, they raised more than $20,000, including $10,000 from a grant match by USC’s VP of Research. Says Kloot, “We knew we were aiming high, but we went for it anyway.”
  Kloot says the idea for the second phase of research evolved after 3 years of observing cover-cropped fields where there were slight increases in soil organic matter along with steady concentrations of pH and K where no lime or potassium had been applied. “We want to better understand how healthy soils perform using cover crops and lower rates of applied fertilizer. We think the results will help farmers quantify their fertility needs and could help them save money,” Kloot says.
  Kloot and his research team found that for healthy, cover-cropped fields, recommended potassium inputs made no difference in yields over 3 years (5 crops since November, 2014). No phosphorus was added to the plots because soil tests showed it was adequate. P drawdown was far slower than crop removal rates suggested. In 2017, they experienced close to record soybean yields in the plots with no P or K inputs.
  “Our findings are really quite radical,” Kloot says, “because for the last three years we haven’t needed any P, K or micronutrient fertilizer as opposed to the published recommendation of a 20 percent reduction. We’re demonstrating what healthy soils can do to help farmers save on fertilizer, increase soil carbon and reduce the amount of energy needed to produce fertilizer.”
  The project has 40 randomized and replicated plots (60 by 100-ft. each) and the 5 crops since November, 2014.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Robin W. (Buz) Kloot, PhD, Research Associate Professor, University of South Carolina, 921 Assembly St., Columbia, S. Car. 29208 (KLOOT@mailbox.sc.edu).

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2018 - Volume #42, Issue #2