Cornell Vegetable Program Enrollment

Program Areas

  • Food Safety
  • Variety Evaluation
  • Market Development
  • Pest Management
  • Cultural Practices

Enrollment Benefits

  • Telephone / Email Consultations
  • VegEdge Newsletter
  • Direct Mailings
  • Educational Meetings & Conferences
  • In-Field Educational Opportunities
  • On-Farm Research Trials

CVP Enrollment Form (PDF; 121KB)

Enrollee Login

Password:

Log In To Access:

  • Issues of VegEdge Newsletters
  • Helpful Diagnostic Tool:
      What's wrong with my crop?

Not an Enrollee? Enroll Now!

Online Enrollment Form

Management Practices for High Organic Matter Soils: Urban Case Studies

Lori Koenick, Project Assistant
Cornell Vegetable Program

February 6, 2024

Management Practices for High Organic Matter Soils: Urban Case Studies

We are exploring management practices for vegetable farmers with high organic matter soils. These soils are usually found in urban growing areas as urban farmers typically grow in imported soil mixtures that have been constructed over time and in high tunnels where leaching events are limited. In both cases, we see that soil pH and calcium levels can increase due to alkaline irrigation water and with grower inputs such as high levels of compost and/or fertilizer. We commonly see limited plant nutrient uptake due to high soil pH. We have produced four "Management Practices for Urban Soil Health" case studies sharing project updates in our urban cover crop, pH adjustment, and bulk density adjustment work. In each case study, we are looking at the effect of the management practice on soil and crop health. 

Management Practices for Urban Soil Health: Cover Cropping
Here are findings from a demonstration trial on an urban farm in Erie County looking at the effect of growing oats and an oats/hairy vetch mixture cover crop on soil and crop health compared to bare ground controls. Cover crops offer numerous management benefits and have been shown to enhance soil carbon and nitrogen in rural settings. Yet, they have not been sufficiently evaluated in urban agriculture. Urban growers can be limited to cover crops that are suitable for intensively managed spaces. Further deterring adoption, many growers do not possess the equipment needed to terminate and incorporate a cover crop compared to their rural counterparts. In this case study, we describe cover crop planting and management strategies. Soil test results are mixed, yet we found some evidence of cover crop benefits on urban farms.

Management Practices for Urban Soil Health: pH Adjustment
Here we share findings from a demonstration trial on an urban farm in Erie County looking at the effect of pH adjustment in high tunnels using elemental sulfur applications. A critical component of the chemical dimension of soil, pH affects what nutrients are available for crop uptake. The majority of urban agricultural soils in New York State exhibit a pH between 7.1 and 8.1, well above recommended ranges for most vegetable crops. In this demonstration trial, we had a treatment plot where elemental sulfur was applied twice over a three-year period and a control plot. In our soil and foliar test results, we found some evidence of elemental sulfur lowering soil pH. Further work looking at the duration of the effect and application rates are warranted. We also noted high soil calcium levels which we speculate could impact the effects of sulfur application on soil pH and high salt levels which could stress plants and affect yields. Management strategies are discussed.

Management Practices for Urban Soil Health: pH Adjustment in NYC
Here we discuss more findings on the effect of pH adjustment using elemental sulfur applications in a demonstration trial at a New York City urban farm. At this farm, farmers were interested in sulfur applications to lower soil pH to increase crop yields and to manage pillbug root feeding damage on radish. In this demonstration trial, we had two treatment plots where elemental sulfur was applied twice over a two-year period and two control plots. In our soil test results, we found evidence of elemental sulfur lowering soil pH. Farmers reported increased yields and reduced pillbug damage in treated areas. We plan to continue exploring the effects of pH adjustment at this site with foliar testing. 

Management Practices for Urban Soil Health: Correcting Nutrient Test Results for Soils with High Organic Matter
In this case study, we describe our work assessing whether bulk density adjustments can substantially change the recommendations that accompany a soil test, especially for soils where large amounts of compost and purchased soil mixes are used. These soils with especially high levels of organic matter often have much lower bulk densities than predominantly mineral soils. We measured the bulk density of soils at nine urban farms along with standard soil nutrient tests and, where possible, foliar tests to measure nutrient levels present in the plants. We found that before adjusting for bulk density, the majority of our soil tests showed potassium falling in the "optimal" range. After the adjustment, the majority showed potassium at "below optimal." This discrepancy can be the difference between recommending no additional potassium to recommending considerable rates of potassium soil amendments. For anyone puzzling over a disconnect between soil test results and nutrient deficiencies in the field, with a soil that's high in organic matter, this approach might be worth a try


Interested in learning more?

Contact project team members Sam Anderson of CCE Harvest NY, Lori Koenick or Judson Reid of the CCE Cornell Vegetable Program.

This work is funded by a USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant "Best Management Strategies for High Organic Soils in Urban and Rural Vegetable Production." 



Management Practices for Urban Soil Health: Cover Cropping (pdf; 944KB)

Management Practices for Urban Soil Health: pH Adjustment (pdf; 592KB)

Management Practices for Urban Soil Health: pH Adjustment in NYC (pdf; 533KB)

Correcting Nutrient Test Results for Soils with High Organic Matter (pdf; 265KB)

more crops
Asparagus

Asparagus

Beets

Beets

Broccoli

Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage

Cabbage

Carrots

Carrots

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Dry Beans

Dry Beans

Eggplant

Eggplant

Ethnic Vegetables

Ethnic Vegetables

Garlic

Garlic

Horseradish

Horseradish

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Leeks

Leeks

Lettuce / Leafy Greens

Lettuce / Leafy Greens

Melons

Melons

Onions

Onions

Parsnips

Parsnips

Peas

Peas

Peppers

Peppers

Potatoes

Potatoes

Pumpkins / Gourds

Pumpkins / Gourds

Radishes

Radishes

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Rutabaga

Rutabaga

Snap Beans

Snap Beans

Squash - Summer

Squash - Summer

Squash- Winter

Squash- Winter

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Turnips

Turnips

more crops

Upcoming Events

No upcoming events at this time.

Announcements

JOB POSTING: Onion Crop Scout

Be a Vital Part of New York Onion Production!

We are looking for someone who appreciates agriculture to scout commercial onion fields in Oswego Co. and/or Wayne Co. for 13 weeks during the summer, maximum 19 hours/week, who would return to the seasonal position annually.

As an Onion Crop Scout for the Cornell Vegetable Program (CVP), you will independently scout 11 commercial onion fields collecting data on insect pests, diseases, weeds and crop stage/quality. Scouting data will be summarized into a preliminary report which is finalized by Cornell's Onion Specialist. Growers use the scouting reports to inform their spray decisions, which enables an integrated approach to pest management. Your hard work will ensure grower engagement, implementation of research-based recommendations, and early detection of emerging issues. It is the "beating heart" of CVP's onion program.

Pay: $18.50/hr. No benefits. Personal mileage will be reimbursed at the federal rate.

Key Qualifications & Skills:
  • High School diploma and 6 months experience in an agriculture setting, or the equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Must be able to meet the travel requirements of the position and have reliable transportation as well as have and maintain a valid and unrestricted New York State driver's license.
  • Visual concentration and attention to detail are required to detect pests and pest damage.
  • Able to work independently in collecting and summarizing data.
  • Must be able to work outdoors in all types of weather.
  • Proven experience in communicating effectively, both written and oral.
  • Preferred: Experience working with plants, plant disease and other pest identification.
Training will include being accompanied by a veteran onion scout for the first season with the intention of scouting independently in the second year, and ideally for several more years after.

Flexible on start and end dates, day(s) of week you work, and whether Oswego or Wayne or both counties are scouted. Our priority is finding someone who will return to the position annually.

Read details about the Onion Crop Scout position.

To apply (resume and cover letter): http://tiny.cc/Onion_Scout_WDR_00043345

NEWSLETTER  |   CURRENT PROJECTS  |   IMPACT IN NY  |   SPONSORSHIP  |   RESOURCES  |   SITE MAP