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Agronomic Services — Why an Agronomic Division?

From both an economic and an environmental standpoint, agricultural efficiency is important to every North Carolinian. Declines in agricultural efficiency impose a widening circle of social costs: growers lose money; consumers are denied safe and affordable food and fiber; the state as a whole suffers from environmental problems; and future generations inherit a degraded resource base.

The Agronomic Division helps to avoid these problems by providing science-based, land management information to all those who need it—from large-scale farmers to homeowners and weekend gardeners. Rather than relying on guesswork or trial and error, growers can thus make informed decisions about fertilization, liming, pest control, irrigation, waste management and related matters.

Reliable agronomic information increases production and efficiency while safeguarding the environment. It forms the foundation for policies that protect the immediate interests of consumers and producers without jeopardizing the land resources upon which future generations will depend.

Impact of the Division

  • Developed predictive soil testing methodologies (Mehlich-1 and -3) that are used throughout the world

  • Developed new methods for determining lime requirements and percent humic matter

  • Became the first (1996) public agronomic testing lab in the country to make its reports available online and is now (2013) accessed by about 2100 unique clients each week

  • Helps N.C. growers who use environmentally sound technologies (e.g., no-till planting that can reduce erosion by more than 90 percent compared to conventional practices) maintain optimal yield by precise monitoring of soil fertility

  • Helps improve farm efficiency
    Studies show that soybean yields in optimally limed plots are 84 percent higher than in unlimed plots. In 1993, analysis of 77,800 soil samples revealed that about half the land used to grow corn, soybeans and small grains was being inadequately limed.

  • Evaluates water quality and nutrient solutions used in the production of tobacco transplants (value estimated at $28 million annually)

  • Protects the environment from excess fertilizer applications and cuts farm expenses
    For example, when division research revealed that tobacco growers were applying too much phosphorus, average application rates decreased from 185 pounds per acre to 86 pounds per acre, saving growers about $60 per acre.

  • Analyzes more than 10,500 plant tissue samples annually so growers can identify and avert nutrient problems before they reach a critical stage and cause economic loss

  • Guides the use of nitrogen and other nutrients in the production of intensively managed strawberries (valued at over $7 million) through routine plant tissue analysis

  • Quantifies the nutrient content of waste products to facilitate its responsible use as fertilizer (145 million pounds of farm-generated nutrients valued at $30 million)

  • Plays an increasing role in the management of municipal, industrial & livestock wastes
    Indiscriminate use of these wastes—which may contain significant levels of heavy metals and nutrients—threatens land productivity, surface water and groundwater quality, food safety and human health. Since 1983, the number of samples analyzed by the plant/waste/solution/media laboratory has increased by 350 percent.

  • Guides the use of nitrogen and other nutrients in the production of intensively managed strawberries (valued at over $7 million) through routine plant tissue analysis

  • Prevents $11.5 million in crop losses annually by identifying hazardous plant-parasitic nematode populations and advocating safe & effective management options

  • Saves growers $5.5 million annually by clarifying the areas that do not require nematicides, thus preventing needless use on 140,000+ acres of food & fiber crops

  • Sponsors field days to bring together growers, agronomists and agribusiness dealers to clarify problems, exchange ideas and implement improved production practices

Last Update February 14, 2013


NCDA&CS Agronomic Services Division, Colleen M. Hudak-Wise, Ph.D., Director
Mailing Address: 1040 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1040
Physical Address: 4300 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh NC 27607-6465
Phone: (919) 733-2655; FAX: (919) 733-2837

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