Husker researchers help launch support tool for crop nutrient management

April 22, 2024

Project partners of the Fertilizer Recommendation Support Tool have launched the nationwide tool FRST, a decision-aid that provides an unbiased, science-based interpretation of soil test phosphorus and potassium values for crop fertilization.

The FRST project is a collaboration of over 100 soil science and agronomic professionals representing nearly 50 universities, four divisions of the USDA, several not-for-profit organizations and one private sector partner. This diverse partnership underscores the collective effort and expertise invested in the development of FRST.

“We are extremely excited about the launch of the decision support tool,” said Javed Iqbal, agronomy and horticulture assistant professor at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and a member of the team. “FRST was developed in response to the pressing need to harmonize soil testing across state boundaries. It represents an improvement in our ability to evaluate soil test correlation.”


The new web-based tool represents a significant advancement in soil testing for phosphorus and potassium and nutrient management that uses data from across the United States with the hope of potentially saving farmers millions of dollars annually while reducing excess nutrient losses to the environment.

“Until now, soil fertility faculty in each state worked independently,” said Deanna Osmond, professor of soil science at North Carolina State University and one of the FRST’s leaders. “But for farmers who work across state lines, it’s difficult to compare or assimilate multi-state 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. Critical soil test values indicate 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. It includes a map of the U.S. that shows the location of phosphorus and potassium trials represented in the database and can be used to identify where the need for additional research data is greatest.

The database was constructed from both historical and current research data and includes trials from 40 states and Puerto Rico. The team has plans to expand to other crops, cropping systems and other nutrients, such as sulfur.

Key features of FRST include:

  • Data-Driven: FRST utilizes 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.

“The FRST project has accomplished two really important objectives to advance phosphorus and potassium management for crop production,” said Nathan Slaton, assistant director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and a leader on the project.

“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, business and technical application analyst at North Carolina State University. Buol has provided database and programming support for FRST.

"We believe that FRST will not only benefit farmers by improving farm economics and conservation practices but also contribute to global sustainability," Iqbal said.

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

Funding for the FRST project has been provided by the USDA-NRCS including the Conservation Innovation Grants, USDA-ARS, USDA-NIFA and OCP North America.

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