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Managing Phosphorous (P) in Organic Residuals Applied to Soils

Dr. John Spargo, Director, Agricultural Analytical Services Lab, Penn State University answers a question during the Q&A session at the conference
November 7, 2016

Responding to the increased need for education on the science behind soil phosphorus, how phosphorus works with organic residuals applied to soils, and the protection of precious water resources, UMass Amherst Extension Agriculture and Commercial Horticulture Program organized and presented a full-day symposium in Marlborough on November 2. Over 140 regulatory officials, scientists, agricultural producers, turf and grounds management professionals, industry experts, and organic residuals distributors participated.  Speakers from UMass Amherst, Cornell University, the Pennsylvania State University, University of Maine, University of Delaware, University of Connecticut and industry leaders addressed how to develop a balanced system for the use of organics, with their multiple and significant benefits, without adding to the potential for negative environmental impacts caused by the presence of excessive phosphorus.  Organic residuals include composts, biosolids, and manures, as well as food and manures digestates.

The symposium not only brought to bear the most current scientific knowledge on the topic, but also provided a unique opportunity for dialogue amongst all present on the presence, forms, dynamics, transport, and fate of organic sources of P applied to soils. Through participatory round table, panel and open forum discussions, attendees tackled several issues including: How does the use of organic residuals impact agricultural and turf soils, soil P and the movement of P from soil systems? What analyses, interpretation and guidelines are needed? What are the most environmentally-responsible and practical Best Management Practices for using these materials? Is research needed to address questions for which the answers are not clear? 

Attendees commented on their new appreciation for the complexity of the issues and the thorough manner in which they were addressed, expressed how valuable the discussions were to their businesses, operations and communities, and called for UMass Extension to continue to provide education and research in this area.

Sponsors of this event: AgResource, Inc., PJC Organic, Osborne Organics, Casella Organics, Cabot Creamery, the North East Biosolids and Residuals Association, Northern Tilth, and SARE.