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South Centers

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


New grant dollars to aid tomato soil health research, crop management

By Brad Bergefurd, Dr. Ye Xia, Dr. Rattan Lal, and Dr. Richard Dick
The Ohio State University

New and emerging pathogens, nutrient disorders, and soil health issues have been reducing yield and quality for many Ohio tomato farmers. Thankfully, new three quarters of a million dollars in grant funding will aid researchers in finding answers. 

New and emerging tomato production research will help farmers improve soil and plant health by integrating different agricultural practices and design a prescription Rx tomato fertility program for their specific tomato fields. 

As of 2017, Ohio ranks 3rd in tomato production in the United States and has some of the largest processing and fresh market tomato acreage in the Midwest with 8,700 acres per USDA-NASS. A large percentage of this processing tomato acreage is organic which makes soil health that much more important to produce a high quality and profitable crop.  

While the tomato industry is one of the important agriculture sectors contributing to Ohio’s farm economy, some tomatoes are susceptible to diverse pathogens; and some tomato fields are susceptible and have been susceptible to flooding, drought and soil erosion, which lead to an associated decrease in soil health, tomato health and quality, and economic crop productivity. The effects of current farming practices together with climate change have affected soil and plant health which can impact the food and processing quality and production of tomatoes.  

The Ohio State University South Centers in Piketon has been researching and refining tomato crop fertility and nutrition as well as disease controls for the past 20 years. Now, thanks to this new round of funding, applied research and demonstrative trials will be established beginning in the 2022 season to:
1. collect unbiased research-based information on tomato and associated soil management techniques;
2. develop hands-on training programs including workshops and field days; 
3. raise awareness of the correlation between soil and tomato plant health; 
4. identify and utilize soil and tomato plant associated microbiome, and plant resilience through targeted surveys; and 
5. showcase and provide tomato farmers unbiased research-based information on new soil and tomato management techniques.  

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is providing grant support for this research.

To stay up to date on the progress of this tomato soil health project and to receive notifications when tomato field days, workshops, and programs will be conducted over the next three years, subscribe to the South Centers horticulture list serve at and follow on Facebook at

For more information on these projects contact project Investigators Brad Bergefurd at, or Dr. Ye Xia at