A major symposium on improving soil quality and productivity will be held Aug. 21 at one of Indiana’s premier family farming operations.

USDA and university scientists, leading producers and prominent crop consultants will present their research and insights at the second annual Midwest Soil Improvement Symposium: Research and Practical Insights into Using Gypsum. The all-day event will take place at Rulon Enterprises near Arcadia, Indiana.

The symposium is sponsored by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), West Lafayette, IN; Gypsoil division of Beneficial Reuse Management (BRM), here; and Rulon Enterprises. CTIC is a well-established information resource on farming technology and sustainable systems. Gypsoil is a leading provider of gypsum for agricultural use.

The symposium is designed for certified crop consultants, university and Extension personnel, farm managers, farm producers and others interested in soil science. Attendees can earn approximately 7 hours of continuing education credits.

Rulon Enterprises is a family farm partnership owned by Ken, Roy and Rodney Rulon. Started in 1869, the operation is based on the homestead farm where four generations of Rulons have farmed with sustainability and environmental responsibility as the focus.

The Rulons started applying gypsum to “problem fields” that contained particularly tight soils prone to prolonged wetness, explains Rodney Rulon. After observing increased water infiltration and better rooting, the Rulons expanded their use of gypsum two years ago across much of their 5,800-acre operation. They apply a base rate of a ton of gypsum per acre every other year and higher rates on their tightest soils.

"As continuous no tillers, everything we do is geared to improving soil quality and health. Gypsum is a tool we use to improve soil structure as well as provide plant nutrients needed for crop systems," says Rulon. The operation is the national winner of the American Soybean Association’s 2012 Conservation Legacy Award.

Last year’s symposium was held at the University of Wisconsin Arlington Ag Research Station and attracted 200 participants. The on-farm venue this year will allow participants to see demonstrations of improved soil management and gypsum application techniques in addition to in-depth presentations on research findings and producer and consultant panel discussions.

Symposium presenters include a cross section of research scientists, crop consultants and innovative producers. Confirmed speakers include:  

  • Karen Scanlon, Executive Director of CTIC, will serve as symposium moderator; 
  • Dr. Warren Dick, professor, Environmental and Natural Resources, Ohio State University, Wooster, OH, will discuss gypsum benefits to crop productivity; 
  • Dr. Fabian Fernandez, researcher and assistant professor of soil fertility and plant nutrition at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL. Dr. Fernandez will discuss field studies in Illinois to assess sulfur deficiency and supplementation strategies, including using gypsum; 
  • Dr. Darrell Norton, noted soil scientist recently retired from the National Soil Erosion Research Lab, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, West Lafayette, IN, will discuss the impact of gypsum on the environment; 
  • Dr. Rufus Chaney, research agronomist, Environmental Management and Byproduct Utilization Laboratory, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, MD, will review a risk assessment for beneficial use of FGD gypsum in agriculture via webinar; 
  • Dr. Jerry Bigham, professor (retired), Environmental and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, Wooster, OH, will discuss soil property changes when gypsum is applied. 
  • Dr. Martin Shipitalo, soil scientist, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Ames, IA, to discuss earthworms and soil quality.  
  • Ron Chamberlain, director of gypsum programs for Beneficial Reuse Management, marketer of Gypsoil brand gypsum, will describe how gypsum is produced and give gypsum application recommendations; 
  • Grower panelists include: Rodney Rulon; Jack Maloney, Brownsburg, IN; Cameron Mills, Walton, IN; plus more. 
  • Consultant panelists include: Joe Nester, Owner/Consultant, Nester Ag, Bryan, OH; Daryl Starr of Advanced Ag Solutions, Lafayette, IN; Tom Weaver, Kow Consulting, Darlington, WI. 

“I think every person involved in crop production will be able to take something away from this year’s symposium that they can apply in their work,” says Ron Chamberlain, chief agronomist for Gypsoil. 

The cost of the symposium is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. On-site registration begins at 7 AM and the program gets underway at 8 AM. Lunch is included. For more information or to register, visit www.gypsoil.com/symposium or call 563-320-2247.