Land & Environment

Fertilizer Recommendation Tool Launches Nationwide to Digitize Crop Nutrient Management

By Lynnette Harris |

A new, free online tool that helps farmers nationwide to interpret soil test results and make science-based decisions about the amounts and kinds of fertilizer to apply to their soil. (Photo Credit: Dennis Hinkamp)

A new online tool that is the culmination of work by more than 100 soil science and agronomy professionals is ready to assist farmers in making decisions about the fertilizer they apply to crops.

The Fertilizer Recommendation Support Tool (FRST) can potentially save farmers millions of dollars each year by reducing the amounts of phosphorous and potassium they need to apply. Too little fertilizer results in lower crop yields, but applying too much adds significant costs for fertilizer and labor and excess nutrients negatively affect water quality.

The FRST project collaboration has resulted in a nationwide, science-based, unbiased tool that is free to use and helps interpret soil tests’ measurements of phosphorous and potassium present in soil. These nutrients, along with nitrogen, are crucial for plant growth. FRST includes both an online user’s manual and an interactive tool on a simple-to-navigate website at

The project involved the work of over 100 soil science and agronomic professionals representing nearly 50 universities, four divisions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 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.

The current version, FRST v1.0, includes data from nearly 2,500 phosphorus and potassium trials for 21 major agricultural crops, the majority being corn and soybean.

Utah State Universityis represented on the project by Department of Plants, Soils and Climate faculty and USU Extension specialists Matt Yost and Grant Cardon.

“We are extremely excited about the launch of this decision support tool,” Yost said. “FRST was developed in response to the pressing need to harmonize soil testing across state boundaries. It represents an important improvement in our ability to evaluate soil test correlation.”

Deanna Osmond, soil science researcher at North Carolina State University and one of the group’s leaders, said: “Until now, soil fertility faculty in each state worked independently. 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 increase in crop yield from applying phosphorus or potassium fertilizer. In the next phase, the FRST will provide research-based phosphorus or potassium rate response information to assist farmers in selecting fertilizer rates.

The FRST 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 historical and current research data and includes trials from 40 states and Puerto Rico. The team plans to expand to other crops, different cropping systems and other nutrients, such as sulfur.

Key Features of FRST Include:

  • Data-Driven: FRST uses 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: The database 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 represent 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, soil science researcher at University of Arkansas and a leader on the project. “The first was developing a national database to archive soil test correlation and calibration research, ensuring that information supporting crop fertilization recommendations is not lost as scientists retire. 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 of NC State University, who provided database and programming support.

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

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 U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, including the Conservation Innovation Grants, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and OCP North America.


Lynnette Harris
Marketing and Communications
College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences


Matt Yost
Specialist/Assistant Professor
Extension/Plants, Soils and Climate Department


Agriculture 225stories Innovation 91stories Soils 27stories

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